Still Walking (Aruitemo Aruitemo)
Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda (Afterlife, Distance, Nobody Knows) confirms his status as his country’s most gifted with this moving and uplifting tale of death, family and dementia.
Twelve years on from the accidental death of their oldest son, retired doctor father Kyohei (Yoshio Harada) and mother Toshiko (Yui Natsukawa, excellent) are joined by surviving son Ryota (Hiroshi Abe), daughter Chinami (You) and their respective families for a day of banter, bickering and a non stop buffet cooked by more-than-capable cook Toshiko.
Initially bearing the weight of all too obvious comparison to Yusujiro Ozu’s recently re-released Tokyo Story, Still Walking opens out into something more hopeful, truthful and relevant. Using fluid, unobtrusive camerawork and cluttered with dialogue marked by its homeliness and familial truth, Koreeda’s film is closer to something Mike Leigh might produce than anything from Japan’s golden age of cinema. As Kyohei struggles the blanks of burgeoning dementia to connect with the family he has always ignored in preference for his work, old resentments come to the surface. Toshiko tries to cook everything better, and their surviving son Ryoto has issues, but there is some kind of healing in the fact that his adopted son has a bond with the old man. Throughout it all Toshiko remains implacable, sarcastic and undoubtedly the beating heart of the family.
It’s hard to remember a better, more honest film about the modern family where expectation and disappointment are inevitably mixed in the same cup. Koreeda’s brilliance is his ability to contain but never limit his remarkable cast as they progress through the mundane to soon forgotten realisations.
At a time when western governments are abandoning their commitments to the dementia epidemic quicker than they are to imminent ecological disaster, Still Walking is a reminder of the power of family (no matter how dysfunctional) and its crucial role in any kind of cure. The challenge will be how to offer the necessary support with dignity and humanity. Still Walking offers both those things in abundance. A rare achievement.
GFT, Glasgow and selected release from Fri 22 Jan.