Our Little Sister

Our Little Sister is a story of coming of age among unconventional circumstances, and a timely affirmation of the quiet signficance of the domestic and familiar.

Sachi, Yoshino and Chika are three sisters living in their grandmother's old house in Kamakura, Japan. When they travel to their estranged father's funeral they meet Suzu: the half-sister they didn't know they were missing.

With her new-found sisters, Suzu is able to experience the childhood of which she was being deprived. 

Through her, director Hirokazu Kore-eda celebrates the motions and routines of everyday life as small miracles, discovered afresh.

Like a number of films in our Growing Pains season (A SeparationThe 400 Blows), in Our Little Sister the family home plays a central role, like a character in its own right.

Kore-eda spotted the old house in Kamakaru and persuaded its owner to allow him to film there. The actors spent four days living in it – cooking, cleaning, mending things – before shooting began. They were even permitted to mark Suzu's height on the house itself. 

Occupied organically, the house becomes a quietly subversive variation on the family homestead.

While the film has its romances and deaths, hopes and deceptions, it unfolds without clamorous drama.

Kore-eda prefers gentle suggestion to lurid spectacle, hushed discussions to violent arguments, and back garden sparklers to bombastic firework displays. 

The film's unobtrusive, even stealthy narrative produces a profound emotional impact.

Its achievement reminded New York Times critic A.O. Scott of Janet Malcolm's description of a Chekov short story:

"We swallow it as if it were ice, and we cannot account for our feeling of repletion."

Without shying away from its difficulties and darknesses, Our Little Sister is a beguilingly gentle depiction of the nourishment and companionship that childhood can be.

Watch Our Little Sister on TANKtv, streaming until 12 June 2020.

Sign up for a month's free trial here.