By conventional movie standards, nothing much happens in this reflective and ultimately quite remarkable Japanese film from director Hirokazu Koreeda. Yet there is never a dull or fallow moment along the way, thanks to the meditatively gleaming surfaces and subsurface thematic currents. A day-in-the-life story about a family gathering at their grandparents’ house, Still Walking is an unhurried meditation on the generational flow and the bittersweet bond of kin, tinged by mortality past and future.
Koreeda follows in the influential lineage and quiet patterns of director Yasujirō Ozu rather than more extroverted Japanese cinematic ancestry. The subtle ingenuity of cinematographer Yutaka Yamasaki’s probing camera—often at floor level, like Ozu’s—along with the spare, lovely lyricism of Gonchichi’s rippling guitar music, help set the sensory stage. Apart from the slowly unfolding details of the family at the heart of the story, we get a strong sense of the house and environment. Small things and details count for a lot in this film, whether it’s the well-placed close-ups of food being made, the social aroma of their meals, or a scene with three generations of men strolling (“still walking”) on a beach where a grown son died. A scene in which a yellow butterfly flits in the house and is caught and released outside takes on the importance of a gentle, allegorical epiphany in a story about setting things free.
Through the filter of a deceptive narrative simplicity, of familial banter and trivial bickering, a larger, deeply resonant and universal portrait of life emerges in Still Walking. The film’s larger effect almost sneaks into our consciousness without our knowing. A common family saga courses gently by but leaves emotional depth charges for days after.
Still Walking screens at UCSB’s Campbell Hall this Wednesday, February 10, at 7:30 p.m. Call 893-3535 or visit artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu for details.