As a ne’er-do-well group keep a child they have found, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s poignant drama asks, who is winning?
Hirokazu Kore-eda is now an established Cannes heavyweight and he shows why with this complex and nuanced family drama in the classical Japanese style that he has personally extended and modified over 20 years, and on which he has put his own distinctive signature. It is a contemporary view of middle-class, parochial Japan: shrewd, realistic, as clear and untroubled as a glass of cold water. But there is also a strong streak of sentiment, if not sentimentality. (In an interview, he told me that the director he believes he resembles is not Ozu, but the more sentimental and populist Naruse.)
Lily Franky (from Kore-eda’s earlier film Like Father Like Son) plays Osamu, a man with a shifty, wheedling grin. He is effectively the Fagin-like head of an extended family of dodgy types who are all up to no good in their way. This household appears to be a middle-aged husband and wife, a teenage daughter, her kid brother and a grandma – all living together in a cramped apartment rented from an equally dodgy landlord who has to keep changing the names on his properties’ title deeds as part of his tax dodge of “flipping” notional ownership.