What a quietly lovely movie. Particularly when compared to the relentless bombast of the news, the depressingly unspringlike nor’easter we’re slogging through, the shrill fragmentation that has become our daily lot. There is this gentle, affirming film, reminding us of the rhythms that underlie the sturm und drang.
Our Little Sister tells of three sisters who make room in their lives for their younger half-sister; their father, who long ago left his original family, has died. You think there will be some sort of reckoning with the stepmother. No. Then with their own mother, the first wife, who left her girls when living in the family home after her desertion became too painful? No. With any of the men who gravitate around one or another of the older sisters? No. Then among the girls themselves, some impassioned betrayal, some long-festering wound? No.
The four sisters eat and talk and quarrel and go to work and walk on the beach and climb hills with breathtaking views of the Japanese countryside. They pick plums and make plum wine. They shop for groceries and cook dinner. They decorate a screen. They revisit memories they share and memories they don’t. They turn down and are turned down by lovers. They attend funerals and memorials. They grow.
Nature and its passing seasons thrum throughout and withal. There is the rainy season, the unspeakably beautiful blossoming of the cherry trees, the ripening of the plums, the summer fireworks, the death of an old friend.
One of the things that always amused me when my girls were little: We would come up on a particular holiday or annual milestone, and they would say, “well we need to do this. We always do this on that day.” Even if we’d only done this once before. It was always and ever and forever. The sweet continuity.
And the movie brought to mind my mother-in-law, a generation older than my own mother, and rooted in family and situational traditions. There was a day the winter curtains came down and the lighter ones went up. A time when the mattress got rotated, and the Easter bread baked, and the good dishes taken out. And, I know from Steve, there was the time when all the cousins were getting married, and then when all the babies were being born, and then rituals becoming less communal and more home-based, and then the quickening pace of viewings and funerals.
The achingly simple circumstances of the passing days and the complicated array of feelings, memories, regrets, and hopes attached to them, embodied in them, and tangled through them. That’s what this movie evokes. A desire to clear the cobwebs, to renew and reiterate. To eat, to quarrel, to celebrate. And to let life and love flow through, while only half-perceiving the reasons and whys and wherefores, but trusting to the flow and celebrating its familiar turns.