Every year, the senior Yokoyamas gather their clan together to commemorate the death of their eldest son in a drowning accident. On the 15th anniversary of the tragedy, the pain of loss lingers on. Arriving for a first visit with his new wife, surviving son Ryo (Abe) remains resentful over the inability of his father (Harada) to accept his life choices, and feels generally trapped in his lost brother's shadow. Sprightly sister Chinami (You) and kindly mother Toshiko (Kiki) try to keep an uneasy peace, but both inwardly sense the family tension is worse than ever. Will this weekend bring these long-simmering issues to a head?
This intimate, perceptive tale of one dysfunctional Japanese family is understated yet achieves a powerful resonance. The film's leisurely pace allows us time to grow close to each family member in turn — in particular, Abe gives his conflicted, wounded Ryo a terrific depth and complexity — but truly all the performers find ways to shine under director Kore-eda's watchful eye. Little is overtly said or expressed here, but, as the film unfolds, there's both pleasure and wonder in watching small details and subtle gestures add up to a thought-provoking emotional payoff.