All of director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s films thus far have been preoccupied with death, and Still Walking, his latest work, is not much different. Set almost entirely during a 24-hour period, the movie examines the tensions that arise when a family gathers under one roof to observe the thirteenth anniversary of a son’s tragic passing. More audience-friendly than anything Kore-eda has made since After Life, this movie still has been crafted with considerable skill. Almost nothing seems extraneous here. Everything that’s included increases our understanding of the way that this group of people grieves and celebrates together. One shot which lasts 7 or 8 minutes, and features 9 actors seamlessly interacting at a dinner table for the entire time, is typical of the way that the filmmaker corrals his ensemble cast and convinces the viewer that these people actually are related.
One of the more impressive aspects of Still Walking is the way that it shades characters in such a way that undermines first impressions. As viewers spend more time in this household, they come to understand that the curmudgeonly father is not as detached as he might seem at the outset. Similarly, the mother, who initially seems welcoming, turns out to be quite capable of snubbing those who displease her. The pressures that the houseguests feel are sketched out in the early sequences, and then fully realized later on, even though nothing as indecorous as a confrontation ever occurs. Subtle, but not so subtle that its audience could miss its universally applicable observations, Still Walking is possibly Kore-eda’s finest film yet.