Our Little Sister
OUR LITTLE SISTER, family drama, rated PG, in Japanese with subtitles, Violet Crown, 4 chiles
Our Little Sister is an old-fashioned family saga, full of feel-good scenes of sisters laughing, cooking, and coming to terms with their differences, which are plentiful. Sachi (Haruka Ayase), the oldest of the Kôda sisters, is a nurse in a local hospital. For 15 years — since their father left the family for another woman and their mother absconded in her grief — Sachi has looked after her younger sisters, Yoshino (Masami Nagasawa), a party girl who cares more about dating than work, and Chika (Kaho), a free-spirited sporting-goods store clerk. They live together in their late grandmother’s rambling but comfortable old house. The Kôda sisters travel by train to a town in the north to attend their father’s funeral, where they meet their thirteen-year-old half-sister, Suzu (Suzu Hirose). Her mother is dead, and Suzu’s stepmother doesn’t seem interested in raising her, so on a whim Sachi invites Suzu to live with them in what she affectionately refers to as their “girls’ dormitory.”
Our Little Sister is such a good-natured movie that there is a light air of menace about it at first. Perhaps the lovely but tight-lipped Suzu isn’t who she pretends to be, or maybe Yoshino’s bad taste in men will have tragic results. None of this happens, though there are highs and lows to the plot: Sisters get their hearts broken by men; beloved friends and neighbors get sick; Suzu becomes a local soccer star and has her first boyfriend. How can a movie made in 2016 hold our attention when everyone is essentially open-hearted and willing to love one another? It’s counterintuitive — even, at various points, to the characters. Suzu represents the destruction of the Koda sisters’ childhoods, yet the idea of holding it against her, a child who wasn’t even born when their father left their mother, is anathema to them. It takes Suzu a while to understand that the sisters truly accept her, because she assumes they must resent her, deep down.
The movie is beautiful to look at, with cinematography by Mikiya Takimoto, and well-acted. It fits in with classic sister movies like Crimes
of the Heart and Little Women, and though it is sweet and family-friendly, it is never saccharine. When their absent mother returns and blithely mentions selling the house, the girls’ sunny dispositions are put to the test. Is everything that hurt them really so far behind them that they are no longer affected? Suzu is a child who cannot yet see the past. For her benefit, her older sisters must learn to face their feelings without pretending they don’t matter. — Jennifer Levin
Sister, sister: Haruka Ayase, Suzu Hirose, Masami Nagasawa, and Kaho