AN, Japan, 2015, 113 minutes. Starring Kirin Kiki, Masatoshi Nagase, Kyara, Uchida. Directed by Naomi Kawase. 115 minutes. Rated M (Mature themes).
A Japanese story in the tradition of such film directors as Ozu and his portraits of ordinary people in their ordinary lives. it was through three seasons, Spring with the cherry blossoms, Summer with the greenery, Autumn leaves falling.
The setting is a shop which makes pancakes, buying in ingredients, An and beans, in bulk, and making pancakes continually, the proprietor, Sentaro, being something of a perfectionist and discarding his failures, picked up by young school girl who is in need.
One day, a well-dressed and fine-mannered old lady,Tokue, comes to visit the shop, hesitant at first, observing, and then asking for a job, pleading, bargaining about wages, and finally bringing a container with her own bean paste which the proprietor puts aside, then decides to taste it – and finds that it is wonderful. He welcomes the old lady and they begin to make the bean paste, she bringing a recipe very different from his own, and they patiently spend time, slowly, boiling the beans, straining the water, cleansing them, and making the paste.
When some of the customers, especially a group of schoolgirls who are constant patrons of the shop, taste the new pancakes and the bean paste, word gets around and there are more customers than they can deal with, even the schoolgirl joining in the work.
This part of the film has a great deal of joy. but, sadness is to come, especially when customers discover that Tokue has been a victim of leprosy. The proprietor is sad, the schoolgirl blames herself for telling her mother about the leprosy.
But the sadness is quite gentle, the proprietor and the schoolgirl going to visit the old lady in her residence, finding her resigned, looked after by a friend. It is only now that the past story of the proprietor and his hard times is heard – especially when the owner of the shop turns up, and he is indebted to her, and she wants to employ a friend and to renovate.
There is also the sadness and death – but the film is one of fulfilling one’s life, no matter what the obstacles, always living in hope and dying in peace.
A pleasing film of delicate sensitivity.
Curious films Release April 21
Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.