OUR LITTLE SISTER (UMIMACHI DIARY) (2015) by Hirokazu Koreeda
“A diary of four sisters to become a family through the life together”
Actress and screenwriter Greta Gerwig says in an interview: “We need women screenwriters because men don’t know what we do when we’re alone”. She is certainly right, and “Umimachi Diary” (“Kamakura Diary” / “Our Little Sister”, 2015), based on the manga by author Akimi Yoshida, is a good example of what women do when they are alone. However, it cannot simply be reduced to that, and on the other hand, director Hirokazu Koreeda’s finesse in turning it into film is also admirable once again.
At a certain point, one character says to another: “It is easier to break the bond between husbands than between mother and daughter”. Certain Japanese directors must be fed up with being compared to Yasujiro Ozu, but those words immediately reminded me of “Banshun” (“Late Spring”, 1949), although it deals with parterno-filial relationships of which in reality also “Umimachi Diary” is feed: after decades without knowing anything about their father, three women in their thirties attend his funeral where they meet their fourth teenage sister, the fruit of the marriage of their father and another woman. Based on this premise, various issues are addressed, from how to live with the absence to the redistribution of family roles, responsibility, guilt and forgiveness, in parallel to the personal challenges according to each age that the protagonists must face. In fact, it presents so many nuances, treated from different points of view, that it fascinates in an overwhelming way.
On the other hand, we also discover more about their culture and specifically their traditions. Some of them are being lost, but Koreeda insists on making them last in his movies. Deep down, he just talks to us about how difficult it is to detach ourselves from certain things and, therefore, from certain emotions. As mentioned in the film, the father of the protagonists wanted to live long enough to see the cherry blossoms one last time. The reality is that, despite our absence, the trees will continue to flourish and that will be the first change in an infinite series.
He also establishes a dialogue with his own previous work, specifically “Dare Mo Shinarai” (“Nobody Knows”, 2004). Both talk about the abandonment by mother and father where the older brother must take care of the rest, but from a more hopeful perspective in this latest film: “Umimachi Diary” reconciles us with the idea of cinema as a refuge where we feel we can trust in relationships and in the future, although sometimes it is only possible in fiction.
In fact, Koreeda’s work often gravitates on recurring themes such as family, time and loss, but he manages to reinvent them in every job. Although, above all, his magic surprises to balance the depth of his ideas and the lightness of the story, taking up the essence of the first cinema: the record of time, of the things that sometimes happen without realizing it, of life definitely. Unlike many filmmakers, who use spaces and objects as excuses to move the action forward, each element takes us back to the past. There is a constant concern for the place that the absence leaves and begins to fill the memory. “Umimachi Diary” doesn’t propose to forget, but to emerge from pain.
Traducido por: Eduardo Llorente.