Movie review: Still Walking

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Still Walking is a small movie. It's quiet and delicate, rarely raising its voice. But this Japanese import resonates with emotional authenticity and the familiarity of family. It's like dropping pebbles in a pond until you're almost overcome with the beauty of the shimmering patterns of ripples.

The simple tale is of a family gathering at the home of elderly parents. Ryota (Hiroshi Abe) is recently unemployed, a fact he's kept from his parents. His father (Yoshio Harada) is a stoic and stubborn retired doctor. With grandchildren bubbling throughout the house, his mother (Kirin Kiki) and sister (You) chat warmly as they prepare dinner.

More slowly revealed is the reason for the gathering: a commemoration of an eldest son who died in a tragic accident years ago.

Writer-director Hirokazu Koreeda has crafted a remarkable family drama. Still Walking unfolds at a lolling, gentle pace, but its collection of small moments of warmth and sadness makes it enthralling.

Koreeda wisely keeps things understated. Emotion simmers steadily but peaks at a gentle boil rather than crashing upon us.

Tales of seemingly perfect families with cracks beneath the surface aren't uncommon. What's unusual here is the lack of judgment in these family flaws, and the fact that dysfunction doesn't equate to darkness.

The film also transcends cultural differences. The customs and dinner menu may differ, but you'll see yourself - and your family - reflected on screen.

"Still Walking"

Opens Friday at the Gateway Film Center

Grade: A-