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Movie Review: 'Our Little Sister'


Let's go to the movies now. Japanese dramas do not get the same publicity as animated films coming from that country. But MORNING EDITION and Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan says there's a new drama that definitely deserves some attention.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: "Our Little Sister" has to be seen to be believed, not because the film depends on huge explosions or special effects but because it doesn't. This meditation on the bonds of family and the joys and wonders hidden in everyday life moves audiences without seeming to try. "Our Little Sister" is the latest work by master Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda, whose wonderfully human films include "After Life" and the Cannes prize-winning "Like Father, Like Son."

This time, Kore-eda focuses on sisters and their relationships with one another. We start with three sisters in their 20s who live together in an old ramshackle house in a charming seaside city. "Our Little Sister's" plot kicks in when the sisters receive the news that their father, who they haven't seen or heard from in 15 years, has died. Traveling to the funeral in a small town, they meet the shy half-sister they hadn't known they had. On an impulse, they invite her to move in with them.


MASAMI KAGASAWA: (As Yoshina Koda, speaking Japanese).

TURAN: And to their delight...


SUZU HIROSE: (As Suzu Asano, speaking Japanese).

KAGASAWA: (As Yoshina Koda, speaking Japanese).

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #1: (As character, speaking Japanese).

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #2: (As character, speaking Japanese).

TURAN: ...She agrees.


HIROSE: (As Suzu Asano, speaking Japanese).

TURAN: Over the course of a year's beautifully photographed four seasons - a scene involving cherry blossoms is especially gorgeous - "Our Little Sister" slowly gets into the rhythm of these women's lives, both as individuals and as a group. Director Kore-eda's style, which is warm and approachable without being in the least sentimental, allows "Our Little Sister" to deepen almost without our noticing it, effortlessly taking us inside the particular romantic and family dilemmas of these intertwined lives. Life and all its complexities simply happens to these people. And it is a joy to be there as it does.

GREENE: That's Kenneth Turan, who reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and also for the Los Angeles Times. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kenneth Turan is the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition, as well as the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide, and served as the Times' book review editor.