Updated: Friday, September 25, 2009, 3:01 AM
Pitch-perfect and profoundly moving, Hirokazu Kore-eda's Still Walking (Aruitemo aruitemo), a quiet portrait of a reunion among three generations of a Japanese family, has a documentary's keen sense of the everyday. It also has the deeper resonance of great poetry.
On the 15th anniversary of Junpei Yokoyama's death - he drowned while rescuing a young boy - the family gathers at the parents' house in a sun-speckled seaside town to remember the lost son. Kyohei (Yoshio Harada) is a retired physician, and a grump; Toshiko (Kirin Kiki), his wife, busies herself keeping the kitchen clean, cooking, deferring to her irascible spouse.
Ryota (Hiroshi Abe), Junpei's surviving brother, is in the art-restoration business, but his employment is tenuous - a matter he's too ashamed to discuss. His new bride, Yukari (Yui Natsukawa), a widow, is anxious to make a good impression on her in-laws. Her son, from the first marriage, is there, too.
So is Ryota's sister and her husband, and their two noisy children. It's a crowded house, and as meals are prepared, dishes washed, beds made, the talk veers from the mundane to the meaningful. Hanging over everything: the memory, the loss.
Charming and often gently wry, Still Walking is simpler in design and approach than Kore-eda's After Life and Nobody Knows, but like his earlier films this one surveys the human predicament with precision and power. Kore-eda lets his characters walk and talk, he records their commonplace domestic rituals, and very little really happens.
And yet, in the course of a day and night spent with the Yokoyamas, everything that's important about life seems to happen as well.
Read full story: In "Still Walking," life in quotidian glory