06 May 2011

Here Comes the Bride, My Mom! (オカンの嫁入り, 2010)

Kotatsu shots aplenty in this film set in traditional Osaka houses.

Saddled with an unfortunately awkward English title and an even more unfortunate trailer, I had not been expecting great things from Mipo O’s Here Comes the Bride, My Mom! (Okan no Yomeiri, 2010). I went to see the film anyway thanks to a recommendation from Franco Picollo of the Italian blog about Japanese cinema Sonatine.

The trailer suggests that the film will be some kind of a screwball comedy romp à la Waterboys (Shinobu Yaguchi, 2001) or Nodame Cantabile (Hideki Takeuchi, 2008). Instead, I was delighted to find a heartfelt family drama that counterbalanced just enough comic moments to keep the film from becoming too depressing. Thematically, it has much in common with Yōji Yamada’s About Her Brother (2010), but instead of siblings the focus is on a mother-daughter relationship.

Tsukiko Morii is the only child of a single mother Yoko Morii (Shibobu Otake). Initially, Tsukiko seems the more mature of the two: making her mother’s bento, walking the dog, and taking care of the household chores. Their apparently cozy home life is thrown into disarray when her mother turns up drunk one rainy night with a young man in tow called Kenji-kun (Kenta Kiritani) whom she refers to as an “omiyage” (souvenir/gift).

Far from being a present for her daughter, the young, unemployed chef turns out to be her own fiancé. Tsukiko flies into a sulk and she, along with their gossipy landlady Saku, are appalled by Yoko’s infatuation with a man 10 years her junior. Tsukiko is jittery around Kenji, a pleasant young man who tries to break the ice by cooking meals and offering to help look after the dog. Will her mother change her mind and look towards someone her own age, like Tsukiko’s only father figure Dr. Murakami, or will Tsukiko find a way to reconcile herself to this new phase of her mother’s life? These are some of the questions that push the plot forward.

At first, the film unfolds in a relatively predictable fashion, until we learn some of the tragic background for why Tsukiko is not working and is nervous around young men. Apart from these events from a year ago, the plot delves very little into the reasons for Yukiko and her mother having no other family. This may frustrate some viewers, but I found it refreshing that the film contented itself with dealing with just the current relationship and issues between the mother and daughter instead of dragging up every little detail from the past that led to them being the women that they have become.

The film has clearly been written for and conceived by women and is the perfect film to see with close girlfriends or female relatives. It broaches a number of difficult topics faced by women including the precarious position of women in the workplace, stalking and harassment, and the impossible expectations that society has for mothers and daughters. At its core, the film tries to impart the message that we should live our lives openly and honestly with each other. When it comes to familial love, the pain of deception hurts much more than brutal honesty.

Mipo O (aka Mipo Oh)

Based on the novel by
Tsukine Sakuno

Shohei Tanikawa

Shibobu Otake as Yoko Morii
Aoi Miyazaki as Tsukiko Morii
Kenta Kiritani as Kenji Hattori
Moeko Ezawa as Saku Ueno
Jun Kunimura as Dr. Akira Murakami

Nippon Connection 2011

© Catherine Munroe Hotes 2011