Umimachi Diary/ Our Little Sister [review]


Umimachi Diary (Our Little Sister) is one of the purest depictions of what a slice of life movie would be. I’m quite a fan of that genre especially when it comes to anime for example K-On!, Hanasaki Iroha and Barakamon. Even then, there were actually some dramatic and exciting stuffs in those shows. In comparison, do not expect anything melodramatic or overly comical scenes in this movie because there are just none. Everything is toned down and very realistic. That said, overacting is zilch which is one of the good things about the show if you want a calm and serene movie to pass time with. This is similar to Like Father Like Son and the most recently, Okashi no Ie autumn drama.

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I realize that if I kicked off this review by saying, ‘There’s practically nothing much happening in the movie’ people might shy away from the movie thinking it’s boring. Well, if you’re not familiar with slice of life, then you’re better off avoiding this movie because I’m pretty sure you won’t be able to last an hour of it without hitting the fast forward button.

PLOT SUMMARY

It begins with a funeral and it ends with a funeral. I counted 3 memorial services in this movie. That’s enough to tell you just how much this movie focuses on the passage of life and time with people coming and going. It is also at one of these funerals that the 3 sisters met their half-sister.

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Sachi (Ayase Haruka) is the eldest who works as a nurse and also the most mature of the lot. Yoshino (Nagasawa Masami), a bank employee, is the free-spirited sister who tends to fall in love with lousy men and loves alcohol more than anything else. Chika (Kaho) is the offbeat one with odd hobbies and even her hair gives me slight creeps. Then, at their estranged father’s funeral, they met their half-sister, Suzu (Suzu Hirose).

Umimachi Diary.2015.mp4_snapshot_01.04.07_[2016.01.10_21.16.29]

This is how their family works because I found it slightly confusing in the beginning. Sachi, Yoshino and Chika are sisters from the same mother whom their father left for another woman. So their father remarried and second wife gave birth to Suzu. After that, he married a third wife. When he passed away, Suzu is left with nobody because the third wife is kinda hopeless. So Sachi invited Suzu to live together with them.

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Sweet moments of when they’re amused by their half-sister’s facial features

In short, Suzu’s mother was the direct cause of Sachi and her sisters’ broken family. Like many others, I am bewildered when Sachi asked Suzu to live with them. On second thought, I suppose Sachi sensed the loneliness in Suzu and reminded her of when she and her sisters were left by their father and mother (their mother ran off with another man too when they were young). Sachi, forced to have an early motherly instinct (since she took care of her younger sisters after their mother left), probably couldn’t help but to lend a hand to Suzu.

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One of the prettiest scenes in the movie

OVERALL IMPRESSION

To be honest, I can’t recommend this to everyone because if you’re seeking for melodrama or thrills, you’ll not get it with this movie. But if you like slice of life (like I do) with a tinge of human drama, this is perfect. Umimachi Diary is a poignant movie that offers daily family dynamics, forgiveness, acceptance and an insight into life at the tranquil countryside. Plenty of idle chatter between the sisters, sitting and watching the garden at the back of their house, neighborhood banter, making plum wine and enjoying cherry blossoms.

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Cast Performance

Of all the 4 sisters, I actually enjoyed Masami Nagasawa’s character the most. I know there’s difference between liking a character and actually good in portraying it but I thoroughly enjoyed her in this movie, more so than Ayase Haruka. I still recall Last Friends where I thought Masami was just average but she has shown lots of improvements over the years with various projects (ex: Wakamonotachi 2014, Moteki) especially movies of different genre and I can see how they have benefited her. 5 years ago, I don’t think I’ll ever say I enjoy watching Masami in anything.

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Ayase Haruka still leads the show obviously and she’s only second here mainly because her character seems slightly detached with strong self-consciousness and discipline that I couldn’t really relate to her initially. She has this very thick wall that has begun building since her mother left them and harbors a huge sense of responsibility for her sisters (because they’re all she has). I only warmed up to her character halfway through the movie as that wall starts crumbling and I think she shines most during her interactions with Suzu when her tenderness reveals itself. Also the mild bickering between her and Yoshino, puts a smile on my face.

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Kaho is delightful to watch and she’s just odd. I don’t know what to say about her but I think she carried that goofy role very well and it suits her. Her hair though makes her look so much older than the other two sisters, most probably deliberate for her character image.

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Suzu Hirose is evidently trying to match up to the older actresses and it shows. Now, I’m not familiar with her works, I think I only watched a few episodes of Gakkou no Kaidan but doesn’t leave much impression on me. There are some moments when I can feel like she’s struggling in this movie, surrounded by competent co-stars. But I think for the most part, she did alright with rooms for improvements. Hopefully, she’ll deliver for Chihayafuru movie because I liked that anime and I really want her to do justice to the lead character.

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A particular scene I like where Yoshino makes up with Sachi after an earlier quarrel

The supporting cast is not to be dismissed because each of them brought something different and special to the plot. We have veterans like Lily Franky, Jun Fubuki, Shinobu Otake and Kirin Kiki. Sakaguchi Kentaro and Ryo Kase have little scenes but they serve their purposes well too.

 

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Short but powerful scene near the end where Sachi and Suzu finally liberate their bottled feelings

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6 thoughts on “Umimachi Diary/ Our Little Sister [review]

  1. totally agree this movie consider a big hit if compare to other japan movie
    a lot of people really love it and i’m not take it serious because most of them
    just barely watch japan movie or j-drama and a lot of them never watch japan movie
    that not relate anime at all.

    but with big promote people go to watch it and love it because all sibling are so cute
    and beautiful and a lot of scene are well made and movie that made in my country
    most of them really suck or put too much in romance like Korean movie so this movie
    it really fresh and new for them.

    but for me seriously it just so boring i have to hit a lot of fast forward movie go on and on
    with no real purpose (sure it about sibling) but it nothing new and story not well made
    i watch Ototo(About Her Brother) that movie are not have any thriller moment
    but god it really well made every character are so real and it really touching

    Umimachi Diary it very letdown for me i put a high hope in this movie
    i nor care if people love this movie we can have different taste but i’m sad
    that a lot of drama and movie that put really good actor/actress in with
    really good story got ignore because not have any cute girl or good dream story

    sry for my english.

  2. Don’t worry about your English, pondloso 🙂
    I know some people will find it boring because it’s kinda plotless and purely slice of life, that’s why I mentioned above I can’t recommend this movie to everyone ^^ There’s nothing dramatic at all and even the confrontation between Sachi and her mother was really brief it didn’t leave much impact. That’s the nature of this movie I guess. So I can understand why you’re upset or feel let down. It’s really for people who generally likes slice of life and relaxing movie.

  3. I watched it with horrible machine subs. I still enjoyed it even though there were some parts where the finer details were a mystery. Essentially Susu wants to belong. Some relatives are aghast that Sachi wants anything to do with the off spring of ” the other woman”. Ayase Haruka is convincing as the mom figure . Kako looked much different as I had watched her just days before in Hitori Shizuka. Over all, a pleasant film. If proper subs were available, I’d watch it again.

  4. I can’t agree with you more, this movie has gone straight to the top of my favourites list, in fact I watched it 3 times in two days, I find it so gentle and heart warming that I have it downloaded on my phablet so I can watch it whenever I want to feel uplifted!
    The Actors all put in wonderful performances which all go together to make me feel warm inside. I really wish there were many more Japanese movies like this one.

  5. Pingback: Our Little Sister (2015), a review – throughthepainting

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