Our Little Sister (2015) Review

This is a Japanese film that was showing at the local indie theater I like to frequent.  I had seen the trailer for this while watching a different movie, and it had seemed intriguing enough, so I went to go see it.

Our Little Sister (2015)

As someone who is familiar with Asian film and has seen a lot of it, there were some things about this movie that didn’t surprise me, but there were a few things that did.  I suppose I’ll start with what didn’t surprise me.

The actresses may seem like they’re “over acting,” but I find that this is pretty normal in most Asian films, and from my experience (based on all the Japanese dramas and movies I’ve seen), Japanese films have a particular style that makes you feel as if you are watching a live action version of some manga and/or anime.  Our Little Sister is no exception.  In fact, this particular film is based off the Umimachi Diary manga.

I think the trailer for this movie promises a lot more than it actually ends up offering.  There’s mediocre character development, and although there are some funny quips here and there, for the most part, this film’s pace felt incredibly slow and at times unbearable. I haven’t read the manga, but I’m pretty sure it’s far more enjoyable than this film.  This is not to say that all the actors don’t do a great job, because they do.  My issue is not with the actors so much as the incredibly sluggish pace the story moves in.  It felt to me like a single episode of an Asian drama that was stretched far too long.

That said, the cinematography is absolutely stunning.  The scenery captured is quite gorgeous, and made me want to take a trip to Japan and visit for a spell, particularly in the countryside, just so I can absorb all the beautiful scenery first hand.

Also, I’m not sure what it is, but there seems to be a trend right now with what I like to call “life snapshot” movies.  (Basically movies that are either an anecdote of a character’s life or just focuses on a specific subject, and the sets are often very limited.).  I’m sure there’s an actual technical term for it, but I don’t know what that might be, so my term is what I’m going with until I learn otherwise.

The story being presented in such a confined way, I think is what ultimately leads to its downfall for those who are completely unfamiliar with Umimachi Diary and therefore would be unable to appreciate any of the nods to the manga that are most likely present in the film.  For those, like myself, who are left in the dark, we find ourselves mostly listening to the same three or four problems being discussed over and over again, to the point where I wondered if they were ever going to talk about anything else.  (Spoiler alert: they don’t.)

Perhaps I just needed to be in the mood for it—I find that sometimes I like these “life snapshot” films.  I just need to be in the right frame of mind for it.

Final Thoughts: For those not native Japanese-speakers, a downside to seeing this would be the need to read subtitles.  If you have issues with attention span or reading subtitles isn’t your thing, then this is a movie you may want to avoid.  I also would not recommend watching this without being at least somewhat familiar with Umimachi Diary first, because if I were to guess, one would probably appreciate this film a lot more after having done so.

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