Derik Badman's Journal

2019-12-15 08:06

Yesterday afternoon I watched Hirokazu Kore-Eda's Still Walking. I heard good things about his The Shoplifters this year and then, of course, neglected to actually go to the theatre when it was playing. This popped up on the Criterion Channel yesterday as I was browsing, so I decided to watch it. It's a quiet family drama, taking place on the (12th, I think) anniversary of the eldest son's death. The main character is the middle son who has kept a distant relationship with his parents, in particular the father, a now retired doctor. Across the course of a single day, you see the various conflicts between the characters: the way the parents seem to be constantly disappointed in the son (especially since unlike the dead brother he had not become a doctor) and how the retired father is quite a quiet asshole. This is not a movie where everything is explicitly stated, nor one where any great drama erupts. In that sense it is rather like an Ozu movie, though there not as many cases where I was stopped short by the composition as in his movies.

Probably the most dramatic part of the movie involves the man whom the brother saved. He is invited to the anniversary, and we see he is slovenly, talks about the school(s) he quit and his lack of a job (he "helps out" at a place that makes grocery store flyers and hopes they'll eventually give him a job). It's clear the parents feel like his life in exchange for their son's was a waste. The middle son tries to defend him, clearly knowing what it's like to be devalued in comparison to the dead brother. And in a private moment between the son and the mother, she admits that they invite the man so that he will feel uncomfortable and unshamed, that hating him gives her some sense of purpose. It's a surprising revelation at a point where you have wanted to be sympathetic to the parents and this moment clarifies (for me at least) that all the things the middle son feels are not just his impressions.