Sweet Bean

Sweet Bean ★★★

2015 Ranked

Like eating a sugar cube and nearly choking on it.

My first Naomi Kawase film and I can't say I'm disappointed. But I can't say she's completely won me over either. She has puzzled me and perhaps that's one of the best things a film or a filmmaker can do. Sweet Bean remains without conflict for nearly half of its runtime, only to focus on the tender relationship between Tokue, an old woman with withered hands, and a man, Sentaro (Masatoshi Nagase), who runs a Dorayaki shop (small pastries filled with the titular sweet beans). The old woman (Kirin Kiki) merely wanders past the shop one day, sees it's looking for employees and convinces the man to let her help him. So it begins. This random old woman just comes into his life and as through magic turns the little shop into a well-running business. And while not much happens throughout the first half of the film besides the two making and selling dorayaki, the film never loses your interest. It’s mostly a testament to the acting talent of Kiki and Nagase who, with little dialogue, elevate their rather one-dimensional personas of a cranky shopkeeper and a sweet old lady looking for some time to spend in her old age to very entertaining and emotionally gripping heights. It’s a beautiful and wonderfully tranquil film and despite its slow pace something that could go on for hours without becoming truly boring, and still, there’s the aching feeling there's something lacking; that there could’ve been something more, as vague of a demand as that may be. I wonder if I may find more in the rest of her filmography.

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