Still Walking ★★★★½

My family is intolerant. They would never see it this way but they are. Without getting too explicit, every last member of my family is in agreement that gays and transgender people are "sinful heathens in the lord's eyes". This is a result of being brought up in a Baptist home. Apparently, somewhere in the Bible it says to stop other people from being in love even if it doesn't interfere with your day-to-day life. Funny, I never knew that. I've also heard incessant talk about how the Confederate flag is a symbol of "heritage, not hate". With all due respect to Southern (white) people who have a deep respect for their (racist) ancestors, fuck that.

I spent some of July 4th at my grandma's where each and every person had some tidbit to share about the flag's controversy. "Obama isn't even American", said one of my aunts. "They're just ignorant", said my brother. "They're" in that sentence is in reference to African-Americans. Somehow they're ignorant to their own history as a people and don't understand the wonderful majesty of the Confederate flag. Give me a fucking break. I didn't say a word for about 45 minutes and restrained myself from bursting into a profanity-laced tirade (cursing, another no-no) out of fear of sparking a family meltdown of epic proportions. I already did that once this year during the Oscars when my mom was complaining about "black celebrities' need to show off their blackness and point their fingers at white people".

It's crystal-clear that I've become the black sheep of the family due to my increasing open-mindedness, a quality frowned upon in my family. This is something that I attribute almost entirely to my insatiable appetite for music and movies. Somewhere along the line I realized that I was empathizing and sympathizing with characters I was previously raised to denounce. Roger Ebert referred to movies once as "little empathy machines". The idea is that they present a window into someone's life that you otherwise would not have been able to experience before. It dawned on me that it would be impossible for a bigoted person to appreciate even something like As Good as It Gets (despite how calculated and cloying that movie can be) merely because of the presence of a gay character. Not just that, but a bigot *learning* not to hate said gay man. Gasp! It seems destined for me to be one of those people who move away only to see their family once in a blue moon. Sad, sure, but necessary. This is where Still Walking comes in.

After that lengthy, publicly inappropriate spiel, I feel a tad guilty for subjecting you to the proper review but here we are. First off, it is visually stunning. Critic Tasha Robinson likened this to Miyazaki's work and, in the outdoor scenes especially, it certainly evokes similar feelings of longing. There were a couple of times where I half-expected the onscreen breeze to waft into my room. It's also been compared to Ozu's work in most reviews but I've only seen Good Morning so I wouldn't be a good judge of that. I will say though, that it nails the prickly nature of talking to your parents when you don't have much in common with them. I don't exactly share Ryo's exact situation (e.g. your father resenting your choice of profession), but I do strongly relate to not sharing the same ideologies as your father. This is the type of movie that invites the usage of the term "well-observed". It earns those compliments. The long takes and quiet scenes beautifully show the ways in which families tiptoe around the main issue. Japanese culture, like many Asian cultures, seems more centered on restraint and respect than most Western cultures but the disparity between generations here transcends any language barriers.

Still Walking reminded me of another foreign family drama from 2008: Summer Hours. Both movies portray families as mildly dysfunctional yet never volatile enough to dismantle entirely. Both are quiet, restrained works that never devolve into clichés or hysterics (unlike my own family life). Kore-eda's touch is so potent that it feels less like trusting the audience than it does trusting himself to make the best movie he can make. An incredibly beautiful movie that left me verklempt in its final two scenes. It reminded me of something my dad has said numerous times throughout my life: "we may be a pain in the butt, but we're the only family you're gonna get."

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