|Director and stars. Haruka Kayase, the Setsuko Hara lookalike second from left|
The story has all the earmarks of early family complications that have been the staple of Ozu, Shimizu and the rest of the roster of Shochiku production going back to the silent era. Every so often Kore-eda returns to the genre and seemingly effortlessly knocks out another domestic drama full of repressed passion, people who choose the 'right' thing over the heart's desire and familes in a continuous state of petty squabble. This time its an almost entirely feminine matter, no aging father is around to cause angst. he's despatched at the start of the movie. The leader in this film is the eldest of three sisters, all of whom have lived together in the family house since their father deserted their mother. The mother left too and appears rather fragile when she finally returns. Setsuko Hara lookalike Haruka Ayase plays Koda, the leader and the one who has made the sacrifices. Slowly throughout the film we learn of a relationship she is conducting with a married doctor at the hospital where she works. The doctor gets exactly one close-up during the movie. The rest of the time we see him from the rear or the side and he remains unclear. Even the breakup scene is done from an almost long shot. He's not central to what is happening in the dynamic relationship between the three sisters and the 15 year old and very smart half sister whom they take in.
Needless to say, in shot after shot that reminds you of the great traditions of Japanese domestic dramas the keys are slowly turned and the sisters bond. Its a story that only a master could make appear so simple.