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21 December 2022

Aruite Mo Aruite Mo (2008)

Still Walking
Directed by: Hirokazu Kore-Eda
Starring: Hiroshi Abe, Kirin Kiki,
Yoshio Harada, Yui Natsukawa,
Shohei Tanaka, You

The gentle, lyrical film explores a day in the life of an ordinary family. It is as if we are sitting at the table with the Yokoyamas, who gather once a year for an annual ritual that initially eludes us. The son and daughter have come to visit their aging parents, respective spouses and children in tow. As the movie progresses, one learns that this annual reunion is to commemorate a tragic death – the Yokoyama’s eldest son had drowned 15 years earlier, trying to save the life of a child. It is an event that weighs heavy on the family.

The father, Kyohei (Yoshio Harada), cannot hide his resentment of his surviving son, Ryoto (Hiroshi Abe). Junpei, his eldest son, would have followed in his footsteps and become a doctor. Ryoto is an out-of-work art restorer who has married a widow, Yukari (Yui Natsukawa) with a son, Atsushi (Shohei Tanaka). 

The mother, Toshiko (Kirin Kiki), likes to cook and enjoys having the family around is very ambivalent about her daughter, Chinami (You) moving back to the house, ostensibly to look after them. Nothing has changed, yet everyone has.

Aruite Mo Aruite Mo is also about the inexorable passage of time, the mistakes of the past, and the inability of humans to either let go or make amends. The movie chronicles bittersweet memories, grief roiling under the surface, simmering resentments, long-held bitterness and even hate and hidden cruelty. But there is also moments of laughter and genuine happiness, joy in sharing simple domestic chores, and the comfort of ties that bind us.

The film merely observes, never judges. People are complex and so you have a loving mother who can also be intensely cruel because the only way she can cope with her grief is to hate. You have a son who loves his parents though his relationship with his father is strained, but as he tells his wife, he will never go back home. The daughter, who wants to move back to look after her parents, but also wants to live in their house and make changes that will suit her family. But that is not all that they are, not the whole story. And so, the director gently peels back layers, revealing a little bit at a time, just so much and no more.

Hirokazu Kore-Eda directed this film as an ode to his late mother.  In an interview, he said that the story was based on his own family. But it could be any family – yours, mine. The intergenerational conflict, the burden of grief, the consequences of loss are all sensitively touched upon, Kore-Eda’s sure touch guiding it to be what it is – funny, sad, tragic, cruel. But in the end, human.

Aruite Mo Aruite Mo is not a ‘big’ story; it’s a patchwork of vignettes, each telling its own little story, and adding to the whole. One never sees the whole tapestry.

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