Wednesday, January 27, 2021

True Mothers Review: A Delicate, Beautiful, and Emotional Film About A Difficult Subject

Directed by: Naomi Kawase Written by: Naomi Kawase, Izumi Takahashi Cast: Hiromi Nagasaku, Arata Iura, Aju Makita, Reo Sato, Hiroko Nakajima, Tetsu Hirahara, Ren Komai, Taketo Tanaka Produced by: Yumiko Takebe Cinematography: Naomi Kawase, Naoki Sakakibara, Yûta Tsukinaga

Release date: January 29, 2021 (American Streaming Release)
Running time: 140 minutes
Starring: Hiromi Nagasaku, Arata Iura, Aju Makita, Reo Sato, Hiroko Nakajima,
Directed by: Naomi Kawase
Written by: Naomi Kawase, Izumi Takahashi

After a long and unsuccessful struggle to get pregnant, Satoko (Hiromi Nagasaku) and her husband Kiyokazu (Arata Iura) decide to adopt a child. Over the next six years, the middle-class couple and their young son, Asato, settle into a comfortable, albeit routine, life. The family’s orderly existence is shattered by the arrival of Hikari (Aju Makita), a young woman claiming to be Asato’s biological mother, demanding his return. As tensions mount, Satoko grows more and more emboldened to defend her family and decides to confront Hikari directly.  True Mothers weaves together multiple timelines and genres with a contemplative pacing and keen sense of place.

Hiromi Nagasaku	...	Satoko Kurihara Arata Iura	Arata Iura	...	Kiyokazu Kurihara Aju Makita	Aju Makita	...	Hikari Katakura Reo Sato	Reo Sato	...	Asato Kurihara Hiroko Nakajima	Hiroko Nakajima	...	Takako Katakura Tetsu Hirahara	Tetsu Hirahara	...	Masaru Katakura Ren Komai	Ren Komai	...	Misaki Katakura Taketo Tanaka	Taketo Tanaka	...	Takumi Aso Rio Yamashita	Rio Yamashita		 Kokoro Morita	Kokoro Morita		 Hitomi Hazuki	Hitomi Hazuki		 Natsumi Ishibashi	Natsumi Ishibashi		 Gô Rijû	Gô Rijû	...	Takeshi Hamano Miyoko Asada	Miyoko Asada	...	Shizue Asami
True Mothers is Japan's Oscar entry for the best international film category and it shows.  As you would expect from an Oscar contender, the film is a complete movie.  First off, the acting is perfect.  It gives you insight into this family, the stress that infertility caused on their relationship, and the joy that they experienced upon finding their son.  But in the same vein, it gives you insight into the birth mother's predicament, her family situation, and her feelings after giving her child up for adoption.  The film treads a fine line as it explores these difficult subjects, but it also showcases the country's difficulty in dealing with teenage sexual activity, raising children, and infertility.  Hikari's mother's reaction to finding out her daughter is pregnant highlights this difficulty and the fact that she didn't once think her daughter could do this.  And the couple's shame at not being able to conceive is insightful.  Infertility can definitely put a strain on a relationship, and it is interesting to see how difficult one family member takes the news, and the very Japanese reaction to this.

True Mothers deals with a delicate subject matter, the rights and expectations of the two parents in an adoption arrangement.  And thankfully, it approaches this delicately, in a thoughtful and measured way.  The movie has an out of order story telling that gives you insights into both parties of this difficult family transaction.  And by giving insight into both sides, it tells a balanced family drama, with a fair representation of the emotions, pain, and joy that each side experienced.  I really loved this insight as I definitely skewed my personal view one way before seeing both sides of the story.  I do feel like the first sequence could have been cut to make the film a little shorter as it did not really relate to the underlying conflict in the film.  But I was also happy to spend more time with these characters establishing their situation.  And the first sequence did artfully give some clues into the family's overall dynamic and financial situation.

But it is not just the story telling; everything about this film feels delicate and balanced.  The cinematography is gorgeous.  It has some beautiful, light-filled shots to make sure this film evokes an overall hopeful tone.  It blooms the light in some scenes, giving this movie a dreamlike feel.  And despite the sometimes depressing subject matter, the movie keeps this positive, hopeful style.  And the music has a light, classic feel to it that helps to make sure that the tone never weighs too heavily and keeps the delicate balance that this film manages to hold.  And the credits songs are just beautiful; I rewatched the credit multiple times just to rehear them.  Overall, the film approaches a painful and sensitive subject matter with an understanding, a lack of judgment, and a wonderfully balanced tone.  And don't get me wrong, just because it is balanced, delicate, and tries to stay positive does not mean that there is no emotion.  This subject matter is sure to evoke some emotions in the viewers as these character's raw and real emotions are depicted on screen.  But True Parents lays these emotions bare on both sides; allowing the viewer to really delve into the family dynamic at play here.  And the film also concludes with a truly wonderful scene that will stick with you long after the credits roll.

True Mothers is a thoughtful, delicate film that approaches a difficult subject matter with beautiful cinematography, realistic and realized characters, and a balanced approach to the story telling that will leave you speechless.  

Watch it.

True Mothers Drama Japan Japanese Oscars Adoption Child Childless Infertile Mother Mothers

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True Mothers is playing in virtual cinemas across the country.  For more information and for showtimes click here.

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