Today at the Foreign Correspondents' Club in Japan (FCCJ) in Tokyo, I saw an upcoming Japanese film (preview screening) about an aging mother and her son, based on a true story on a famous Japanese novelist Yasushi Inoue who was once nominated for Nobel Literature Prize. The film is titled "Chronicle of My Mother" ("Waga haha no ki" in Japanese), directed by Masato Harada, and opens in Japan later this month (on Saturday April 28). This film won the Special Grand Prix of the Jury at the Montreal World Film Festival last year.
This film is about the relationship between a famous writer (played by Koji Yakusho) and his aging mother (Kirin Kiki), since he was an child during World War II and his golden age in 1960s. During the war, when he was 5 years old, his mother left him in the rural village of Izu Peninsula, and she took her other children (his two sisters) to Taiwan to follow her husband who was an army surgeon and was moved and stationed there. Though he had a relative in the village, he was raised by a stranger, an old lady in the village, until he became 11 when the lady passed away. Up to that point, he could not meet his mother and sisters, and thought that he was abandoned by his mother not only these childhood years in Izu, but also for decades, even when he was widely recognized as a leading novelist in Japan in 1950s and 60s.
The relationship between the writer and his mother started to change when she started to develop dementia (or possibly Alzheimer) around 1960. His family (wife and three daughters) and extended family (two sisters) took a considerable care of the mother, and the writer spent more time with his mother. Though she is a cheerful lady with a good sense of humor in nature, her behavior gradually change from comical to stubborn, and seriously ill. After helping his decaying mother for many years, one day the writer finally find his mother's deep love and agony. It was spoken by her mouth as a long monologue, when the two was casually talking about their lives during the war.
The acting of the mother (Kirin Kiki) and the son/writer (Koji Yakusho) in this scene was overwhelmingly moving, and tears bursted to flow from my eyes, and I could not stop them for too long. See the trailer (though in Japanese) in the Youtube video above.
The screening was followed by Q & A session, with the director Masato Harada and leading actor Koji Yakusho and the actress Kirin Kiki for an hour.
After the Q & A, a cocktail party was held. We had a chance to meet and chat with the actors and the director in a friendly and informal atmosphere. Great film, great actors, and of course, many credits go to the director!
This is a must-see film, notably for those who have an aging family member(s). This is the best Japanese film I have seen over the past 5 years or so. I sincerely hope this film will be nominated for oscars and win the Best Foreign Film Award.
Because this film is not released overseas yet, there are little information on the film available in English. Following the press conference (Q & A) at FCCJ tonight, more articles on this film will appear on media very soon. IMDb website provides basic info about the film:
Posted on Wednesday 18 April 2012