Koki Maeda (above, right) and Ohshirô Maeda (left) -- experiencing an enforced division due to the separation of their parents, the movie tracks both their lives, along with the little community that surrounds each of them: relatives, friends, school, teachers and then, finally, "the world," as one of them calls it -- upon discovering that life just might be larger and more complicated than his immediate circumstance had suggested. Has this fact ever hit home in cinema with quite the quiet force and exquisite combination of sadness and delight that it takes on here?
Maborosi in 1995 -- Mr. Koreeda, shown at left, offers up an almost continuous array of highly specific details, often in rapidly moving, short scenes, of Japanese life today. Much of this will seem both resonant and exotic, not least the active volcano, constantly spewing ash, over the city of Kagoshima where Koichi, his mom and her parents all live. Ryunosuke lives a long way off with his father in the town of Fukuoka, where dad is still struggling to earn a living as a rock musician. Reunion is on the minds of the two boys and their mom, less perhaps to their musical artist dad.
Kyara Uchida, in purple dress, above, right), a friend of Ryunosuke who wants to be an actress. How she gets her chance, in a manner no one could have predicted, is tender and original. As is the old couple who help these kids and in the process experience a kind of complete, yet thankfully understated, joy that comes very close to heartbreak. Come on: nobody else in movies is doing anything like this.