Trying to live one’s life up to other people’s expectations is like having a pencil handed to you and being told to go hit a home run with a baseball. It will never happen. I learned to live my life by my own expectations, but it took a long time to get there. When unrealistic expectations are placed within a family, the landscape can only be paved with resentment. I have been to enough family dysfunctions where tension has its own place setting at the table, where I can only sit there quietly and observe how people pretend everything is normal. Trust me, there is no such thing as a normal family. I invite you to be a guest at Toshiko and Doctor Kyohei Yokoyama’s house on the fifteenth anniversary of their 1st born son Junpei’s accidental death. You will be among some uninvited guests named resentment, disappointment and guilt. This multiple film festival winner presented a powerful drama in a very subtle way. Kirin Kiki (Returner, Chronicle of my Mother)and Yosio Harada (Then Summer Came, Dororo) were wonderful as the doctor and his wife. Hiroshi Abe (Chocolate, Memories Corner) played the 2nd son Ryoto and I do mean 2nd son in all its meaning. I especially liked his physical presence in the scenes; his exceptional height added to the idea of his character’s growth despite his parents. It was a marvel to watch how the director used a gentle hand in having the characters convey their true feelings with a gesture, a word or a look. This dramatic film had all the elements of a classic case study about family dynamics. Do not get fooled by the polite appearances kept up by the family members; there were raw feelings just below the surface. The more I thought about this film after viewing it, the more I realized how much I enjoyed it. And the best part was I did not have to be a guest at this celebration. Japanese with English subtitles.
3 1/2 stars — DVD