Maborosi centres on Yumiko, a young mother of an infant, whose seemingly happy husband dies under dubious circumstances. Matched by a friendly neighbour to a widowed man with a young daughter of his own, Yumiko relocates to his home in a seaside village and adjusts to her new circumstances while trying to understand her feelings of loss.
To begin with, watching Hirokazu Kore-eda’s remarkably self-assured debut feature feels like the first few days of a holiday – it takes a little getting used to the lack of obvious drama but once adjusted to the tranquillity, it invites us to slow our pulse and quiet our thoughts. Indeed, with a camera that never intrudes too far into the characters’ personal space and predominantly static shots, it shares the feel of sitting with a coffee and a folded newspaper in a vaguely exotic holiday destination and indulging in some good old-fashioned people-watching.
Kore-eda cites Ken Loach as inspiration for his films and it certainly feels as though both directors capture the sombre subconscious of their respective countries, skirting around ideas of melancholy while never succumbing to the full indulgence of them – Loach with his not-so stiff upper lip and here Kore-eda painting a portrait of Japan’s subtle etiquettes, effortless grace and contemplative nature (hopefully not to over-generalise!).
Emotions are vividly expressed by our main characters with precision efficiency. There’s no Hollywood over-cooking or lime-light stealing on display here. Beautifully framed shots linger for an audacious and unsettling amount of time after characters have left scenes. A vaguely haunting effect, it begins to feel as though finding yourself absentmindedly staring at someone only to realise that your gaze is being returned. The score, sparse but in no way lacking, makes full and rich use of the natural environmental sounds: gently crashing waves or the familiar clatter of a bicycle in motion. When a song does enter the narrative it can come almost as a relief from the quiet solitude.
With such an uncluttered canvas, one is able to project one’s own understanding onto the film, whether it’s the gentle coming to terms with grief, a reminder to pay closer attention to the seemingly mundane beauty of the everyday, or that life continues to tick along regardless of our objections.
A truly serene and exquisite piece of filmmaking!Find your cinema and book tickets