When I first saw Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Still Walking, the first thing that would have come to mind from my own experience with it was none other than the work of Yasujiro Ozu. My own love for the work of Ozu was something that only compelled me to watch Still Walking for my first time and on many subsequent revisits, it retains that power – for in the simplest actions it manages to become something all the more profound. I’ve read somewhere that Hirokazu Kore-eda is not fond of the Yasujiro Ozu comparisons (he said he would much rather be linked to the likes of Ken Loach) but with a film like Still Walking it feels irresistible. About as close as we can get to modern day Ozu.
Created as a tribute to his own late mother, Still Walking shows a day in the life of the Yokoyama family, who reunite every year in order to commemorate a member of their own, who had taken his own life trying to save a stranger from drowning. Although we have a clear focus coming in with the detailing of the small tasks that include cooking and conversation between member, something all the more profound is formed when from these seemingly simple actions comes a resemblance towards any ordinary family – one that could very much be our very own. He brings us closer to the family in this way, through big and small.
From watching the small actions take place on the screen, the beauty of Still Walking becomes prevalent within how it also brings us closer to the central conflict which these characters are going through. It only goes ahead to strengthen what proves itself to be Kore-eda’s greatest aspect, just in how he captures life on the screen – and we begin to feel for these moments that come within their way. His observation carries a perspective much like a fly on the wall, but never are these moments uninteresting for Kore-eda covers the very basics of the dynamics so perfectly on the screen and its subtle beauty only begins to pull oneself in all the more, for it rings back to what is mesmerizing about the ordinary.
Yet from its own picture of family dynamics, there’s a link that ultimately gives Still Walking the impact to which it carries – for it is all present in the importance of togetherness. When we the observe the routined lifestyle of the Yokoyama family, it never feels a need to focus on the bigger tensions as a means of manipulating you, as a viewer, to feel more sense of connection. Every last up and down in the family members’ lives – from all the comedies to the tragedies, there’s a link that comes by within the loss of Junpei who had his own life taken from him for the kindness towards another. What importance this one member of their family had on their life, how everyone else has played their part in trying to cope from their loss and suffering – and as every last facet comes to place, it only becomes all the more affecting.
From all of these comedies and tragedies that come by within the film’s own sense of togetherness, there is a whole other level where Still Walking works – and it comes from a more thoughtful perspective it encourages from its viewers. Given how Kore-eda has put so much care into showing from little actions on the screen rather than the bigger dramatic jumps, one moment hits by in which we hear Kirin Kiki and how she tells of how she always wanted to invite the boy whom her eldest son had saved. What it inspires out of us as we watch the film is a thought about what have we done for others. It does not have to come right at a time of death, but I was always coming back to memories of my own late uncle. I think of how my mother must have felt the moment the news came to her, reflect back upon how I was unable to help then, and I just wished inside of my head that I was present more often for her rather than myself.
I’m not going to forget my experience with Still Walking in the slightest, for everything that Hirokazu Kore-eda has inspired out of my own head in such a beautifully resonant picture only becomes all the more affecting when I think back to how much it reminds me of what my own family was like. And from its own simplicity, there were so many notes that returned hitting back the way any of Yasujiro Ozu’s best films would leave their mark upon me. It became clear to me soon enough what the title, “still walking” has meant. Knowing whom Hirokazu Kore-eda has made this film for, it reminds us that even if a loved one is no longer with us, they are still walking within our hearts.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via IFC Films.
Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda
Screenplay by Hirokazu Kore-eda
Produced by Yoshihiro Kato, Satoshi Kôno, Hijiri Taguchi, Masahiro Yasuda
Starring Hiroshi Abe, You, Yui Natsukawa, Kazuya Takahashi, Shohei Tanaka, Kirin Kiki, Yoshio Harada
Release Year: 2008
Running Time: 114 minutes