Eyes on Screen are now proud to acknowledge the Lincoln Film Society. The Society is a voluntarily run, not-for-profit organisation. Each year, they organise a programme of screenings, offering the very best of contemporary world cinema. This allows beautiful films with little or no exposure to take centre stage in Lincoln. For their 2016-17 season, Eyes on Screen will be reviewing each film screened. For more information on the Lincoln Film Society, please visit their website. For the latest news, you can also like their Facebook page, and follow them on Twitter.
The following review is of Our Little Sister (Japan: 2015) – screening #6 of the Society’s 2016-17 season, shown on Friday 4th November 2016.
Our Little Sister is a film that delves into what it takes to raise a family and how love can transcend boundaries. Set in modern day Japan, the film tells the story of three blood sisters – Sachi (Haruka Ayase), Yoshino (Masami Nagasawa) and Chika (Kaho) – living by themselves in their grandmother’s house. One day their half-sister Suzu (Suzu Hirose), following the death of their father, comes to live with them and we follow the sisters as they go about their lives, dealing with jobs, relationships and familial drama.
While the description does not sound particularly exciting, the film does a great job at being a familial slice-of-life drama. It presents each of the characters in unique ways: Sachi as the mother figure; Yoshino as the grumpy middle child; Chika as the outsider; and Suzu as the young girl forced to grow up too quickly. It makes you feel as though these characters are real people, each with their own lives, personalities and problems. They truly excel when they are together, making you feel as though this is a true family unit. Regardless of who their mother is, they will stay together. All of the actresses do a great job, especially Suzu Hirose who plays Suzu with the right amount of maturity and innocence.
In terms of cinematography the film looks beautiful, really bringing the colour out of everyday Japanese life. This is all underpinned by a beautifully sweet score, the highlight being a sequence where Suzu and her crush ride down a road, strewn with cherry blossoms. The screenplay does a good job of balancing the familial with the girls’ everyday experiences, helping to make the film feel more real, and features some truly heart-wrenching moments.
Unfortunately, the film does have some problems. It is presented in a somewhat episodic manner, progressing from one situation to another, mostly to introduce Suzu into her sisters’ world, or to just show the sisters going about their everyday lives. While this does give off a more realistic sense, it means that the film can feel very unfocused at times, meaning there is no time to give any of the subplots as much dramatic weight as the main story between the sisters. Consequently, certain moments intended to be emotional centrepieces fall flat. The film also suffers from pacing problems, particularly at its conclusion: Our Little Sister feels like it is about to end ten minutes prior to the credits rolling, though the ending does wrap the film up satisfactorily. The film also has a tendency to overuse dialogue in situations that only need a line or two; a shame when several quieter moments have the potential to really strike a chord.
In conclusion, Our Little Sister is a beautifully touching look at how family bonds can overcome barriers, giving everyone hope for the future. The film is beautifully presented in almost every manner. The only problems lie in its slightly unfocused nature, and dialogue guilty of occasional waffle. The actresses all do a great job at selling their characters and the film really makes you believe in them and the world it creates. If you are in the mood for an uplifting slice-of-life film, Our Little Sister is heartily recommended.
Written by Josh Greally