Review: Our Little Sister
Hirokazu Koreeda is exceptionally worthy of the designation of playing in the Masters program at TIFF. Almost every aspect about Our Little Sister sonically, professionally, aurally, is incredible. All the little things are done extremely well, from casting to scenery. It is inherently the work of a master.
Why then, does it not succeed to capture the spirit, the esprit de corps of the spirit of the four central females of the film?
A trio of reasons, really. The first is a comparison to Koreeda’s previous work, the challenging and rewarding Like Father, Like Son, which explored issues of parenthood in more depth, and rightly won the Jury Prize at Cannes. Spielberg was rumoured to tackle an English language version and the actor Rirî Furankî appears in both films, but as a lead there and in a more reassuring role here, emphasizing the dichotomy. This film is not that film.
Secondly, the adaptation of a manga into a film makes for some tricky maneuvering into the style of Koreeda. The sisters each have a distinct voice, (especially the half-sister the elders are surprised to find), but the imagined cartoonishness of adapting a Manga into a fully realized and realistic world.
Lastly, and this is just unfortunate, there is something inherently Japanese about the film that a non-native speaker and resident of the country just loses in the translation. It is not so much the words, but the gestures, the significance, the semiotics of the film that just cannot be translated.