In "Still Walking," life in quotidian glory

Steven Rea, Inquirer Movie Critic

Updated: Friday, September 25, 2009, 3:01 AM

Kirin Kiki and Hiroshi Abe in Hirokazu Kore-eda's "Still Walking," about a grieving family.

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.

Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/onmovies/

Steven Rea, Inquirer Movie Critic

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