Had I discovered this earlier, it would have lobbed in at #1 with a bullet on my list of Top Ten movies. Osamu and Nobuyo Shibata live cheek by jowl with grandmother, a young woman and a ’tween boy in a cramped house that is not part of the neon-lit Tokyo we are accustomed to seeing in tourist brochures. As poor as church mice, with neither wi-fi nor iPhones, Osamu’s gift to the boy, Shota, is to train him as a shoplifter so that they might not go without regular meals. Returning home one night, Osamu and Shota come upon a neglected little girl, Yuri, to whom they give shelter and take into the family. But is it a family? Just exactly how are these people connected, if not through blood? With imperceptible sleight of hand, director Hirokazu Koreeda lets you assume that this is a typical nuclear family – the intimacies, the support for each other, the talk between them could indicate nothing else. But they are not the Brady Bunch, and as the story develops and we learn of their background, we realise that Koreeda is opening our eyes to the simple truth and beauty of our shared humanity. Slurping their noodles, watching fireworks, playing at the beach – the harmony within the group is not defined by rigid orthodoxy. Their world is threatened, however, by the problem of Yuri, whom officialdom considers to be kidnapped. Love is blind, but ‘proper’ society’s rules are black and white. There are so many precious moments – the tackiness of daughter Aki’s job of showing her tits in a peep-parlour is transformed by an encounter of overwhelming tenderness; Osamu assuring Shota, while swimming, that the sexual stirrings that he is beginning to feel are perfectly okay; grandmother comforting Aki. It’s incredibly touching. Entirely natural performances are a joy to watch, but special mention must be made of Sakura Andô as Nobuyo, a woman who would be prepared to kill for her family. Winner of this year’s Palme d’Or, it is surely a masterpiece.
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