OUR LITTLE SISTER — Revew by Susan Granger

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Based on Akimi Yoshida’s popular graphic novel “Umimachi Diary,” Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda (“Nobody Knows,” “I Wish,” “Like Father, Like Son”) has created a wistful, episodic melodrama about families. When the three twentysomething Koda sisters – Sachi, Yoshino and Chika – travel north to Yamagata for the funeral of their estranged father, they discover that they have a teenage half-sister (Suzu Hirose) from his second marriage. Read on….

Impulsively, Sachi invites shy, soccer-loving Suzu to come live with them in their late grandmother’s dilapidated family house in Kamakura, a small, seaside town, south of Tokyo.

Ever since their mother (Shinobu Ohtake) deserted them, dutiful Sachi has been the matriarch; a dedicated nurse, she’s having an affair with a married pediatrician at the local hospital.

The middle sister, Yoshino (Masami Nagasawa), is a hard-partying bank clerk, while kooky, amiable Chika (Kaho) works in a sporting-goods store, flirting with a mountaineering co-worker who lost six toes climbing Mt. Everest.

In addition to the sisters’ romantic angst, there are many culinary interludes, including catching and preparing freshly-caught seafood, along with the multi-generational ritual of making plum wine using fruit harvested from an old tree in their yard.

As seasons pass over the course of a year, the kind and generous sisters bond, relating to each other in different ways, coping with a cantankerous great-aunt, marveling at a fireworks display and relishing the traditional pink cherry blossoms.

As this gradual intertwining occurs, it affectionately reinforces their grandmother’s oft-quoted belief that “every living thing takes time and effort.”

In Japanese with English subtitles, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Our Little Sister” is a slight, serene, sweet 6; it’s a subtle, calming interlude.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.