Film Talk

Our Little Sister – A gem that explores family and forgiveness

I’m not sure that reviews will be a frequent occurrence here, I mainly use Letterboxd for my quick thoughts on a film, but the above inspired me to write a little more than usual, something worthy of a blog post.

I can’t remember where I first read about this film but I’m glad that I did. Films don’t always have to go at a million miles away; sometimes it’s more than enough to spend time in the company of well written, fleshed out characters for a couple of hours. 

Our Little Sister is a Japanese film about three sisters who find out that they have a half sister and details their story and how they adapt to this news. It’s charming, in an effortless way too, and avoids being overly sentimental or clichéd. It focuses on the smaller things that happen in their lives, documenting the shifting nature of their lives. 

All four of the sisters are brilliant pieces of casting and it’s believable that they could be related. The chemistry they had more than backed this up. It felt comfortable watching them, the way it’s directed allows you to feel a part of their world and gives equal attention to all of its key cast members.

As for the key themes, it delves into two F’s primarily: forgiveness and family. Let’s start with the latter. Ah, family can be tough. Yes, you can choose your family in a sense, once acquaintances and friends become close enough you can widen your family or end up becoming a part of a new one, but you can’t decide who you’re related to. Sometimes that’s for better and sometimes for worse. Just because you’re related doesn’t mean you’ll always see eye to eye, or even share the same values. As much as you love your family, I’m sure you’ve wanted to kill them (metaphorically of course) at some point. The conflicts and disagreements in OLS are handled with care. They’re relatable, sometimes petty, sometimes hard-hitting. Many are recognisable.

If family is anything though, it’s about supporting one another. Sometimes that’s with tough love, sometimes by siding with the other person even though you’re not entirely sold on why. It’s time spent together, even if it’s doing mundane day-to-day tasks. There’s some absolutely beautiful scenes in this film with the sisters just hanging out, and ones where they’re keeping up traditions set long before their existence. The way they induct their new sister into this is heart warming. 

Then there’s forgiveness. It exists because nobody is perfect and again, handing it out isn’t always easy. Humans in general can be cruel and unfortunately we seem to find it easier to be this way to those closest to us, our family. Perhaps it’s because we know that they’re obliged to love us despite this, perhaps because it’s easier to say sorry to them and fix it. This film explores that theme in all its naked glory. Forgiving family can be more difficult than a stranger too, often because you expect more, or wanted more from them. Different recollections of an event also shape the sisters’ viewpoint and it explores this fairly too. 

Tied in with these two are a look at child abandonment, lost youth, coming to terms with mortality and tradition. Again, each topic is handled with what feels like a truthful representation but a careful one. At no point does the slow pace or melancholic approach lose that glimmer of hope, its warm colours helping with that. You come away feeling uplifted and in my case, wanting to put a call into home just to tell my parents how much I appreciate them.

It’s the kind of film that you want to let wash over you. A slow burner in a tranquil way, a perfect summer film you could argue. A reminder of how easily family can be forged, broken and fixed and to revel in the day-to-day of family life. It had me wondering at the end if it might be time for me to bury a fairly old hatchet of my own, before it’s too late. Or to at least make my peace with it. Another film that could slot into my previous blog post perhaps as I’ve been mulling over its central themes for the last couple of hours. 

Aside from brilliantly developed characters and a well written script, it’s rather easy on the eye. Avoiding the better known cityscapes of Japan, a lot of the film is in rural and coastal areas. Yes, there’s the cherry blossom that looks intoxicatingly lush, but it shows some of the lesser seen elements. It serves as a reminder of the beauty in Japan. Both the natural beauty of the landscapes but also the way of life and the role that family plays. No doubt I’ll probably sound like a broken record but family are so important to me and I can appreciate the Japanese approach to family and tradition. 

What I found particularly interesting about Our Little Sister was the predominantly female heavy cast. Men aren’t entirely absent, but are some what sidelined in favour of the female sides of the families involved. It looks at women in Japan to an extent but also the women’s role in the family. Each of them have their own life and ideals and we get glimpses of those too. It was sort of refreshing to have such a female driven cast.

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