Greetings again from the darkness. Movies don’t frequently begin after the most disruptive drama has already occurred. However, such is the case with director Hirokazu Koreeda’s adaptation of Akima Yoshida’s graphic novel “Umimachi Diary”, the source material for this tale of sisterly love formed by tradition and some unfavorable circumstances that are “nobody’s fault” (a recurring theme).
Three adult sisters live together in their large family home, and have done so for many years – since their father left for another woman, and their mother, unable to cope, abandoned them. Sachi (Hanuka Ayase) is the oldest and self-burdens by carrying the most responsibility. Yoshino (Masami Nagasawa) and Chiko (Kaho) are quite a bit more care-free than their older sister, but this non-traditional family unit functions with traditional meals served within the walls of their traditional house.
The sisters attend their father’s funeral where they meet their half-sister Suzu (Suzu Hirose), who they invite to come live with them. The small town community of Kamakura provides a quaint and beautiful backdrop for the film … which has plenty of personal drama (what would you expect from 4 sisters?) but lacks the high drama that cinema usually heaps on screen.
We easily get to know each of the characters, and how they deal with being a product of their past, while hoping not to repeat the mistakes of their parents. Although “death” is seemingly everywhere, this is mostly a story about appreciating life and beauty – and the strength that comes with a family bond.
The acting is superb throughout, and director Koreeda’s camera work is understated and complimentary … except for the moments when it’s breathtaking – the Cherry Blossom tunnel, for instance. The look and feel of the film is quite tranquil, but emotions are constantly stirring – whether at a local diner or harvesting the family plum tree for this year’s plum wine. It’s little wonder that the film was so well received at Cannes Film Festival, and for those who enjoy a less-thunderous approach to cinema, it should be quite a pleasant two hours.