The beautiful melancholy of human life, or maybe wa–if that’s what we want to call it through Japanese lenses. If you can’t put it in better words, make a movie about it with four sisters, or four charming sisters, even better. It is Hirokazu Koreeda’s almost latest movie, Umimachi Diary. Four sisters, but one of them is relatively younger than the other three and is also from another mother. Otherwise, there is nothing really special about their life, except the fact that their parents don’t seem to care much about them (by the way Koreeda has another movie on this theme, much darker than Umimachi Diary). And this absence is always there in the air enriching and complicating their relationships to each other and to others around them, so the sense of missing home becomes their mode of togetherness. It’s there in the taste of the the shirasu (whitebait) toast their father used to eat; or in the umeshu (plum liqueur) their grandmother made every year using the fruits collected from the plum tree in front of their house.
Their love relationships are like imperfect attempts to find their parents again and again, but what they find instead in every other human being is the warm and caring company of each other with all its joy and quiet gracefulness. Their world is probably not visible to anyone else, not even for themselves. It is another world, a world made out of sentiments, memories and flavours of a common existence, but a world without shared words. And cinema without the weight of verbal commentaries is perhaps the best way of reflecting on these kinds of worlds. When they walk away by the seaside at the end of the movie, you wish they could stay just a little bit longer and tell us more about the unbearable lightness of being human. Homework for this summer: making shirasu toast for dinner and finishing the umeshu we made in Tokyo five years ago.