World Cinema: Japanese movies - Little Forest: Summer/Autumn & Little Forest: Winter/Spring

Wednesday, August 26, 2020


A few years ago, the extent of my Japanese movie knowledge was that "Japanese version is always better than the Hollywood version" when it came to horror movies. And that was that. I never ventured much into Japanese horror, because for someone who watches horror movies through my fingers over my eyes, I knew it would be a futile exercise attempting to also read the subtitles through my fingers. But, I do watch a lot of Japanese non-horror movies. And I wanted to write about these two movies that I watched last week. These are two separate movies, but it can be considered as two parts and can be watched together, sort of a binge watch. 

The story follows Ichiko, who returns to her hometown Komori, a rural village, after not being able to find her place or "make it" in the city, to lead a farming life and live off the land as her town people have done, for generations. And the movies takes place over the course of one year, covering all four seasons. 

The movies are divided into four seasons and the plot revolves around Ichiko farming and making meals out of her own produce. So, it also includes recipes, that you could recreate, which in turn makes it immersive?  I might just try doing that, how's that for a new series on this blog, huh? Each season has at least seven recipes. And to break her single, solitary life, you also see her interacting with her childhood friends and neighbors who drop by. Ichiko also narrates the story, at certain points. The pace of the movie is slow and combined with her voice over and her peaceful life in her village, this movie  is so soothing and reassuring, especially in these times. I also loved how food was used to transport us back to memories. There is a scene when she is making silverberry jam, and that takes her back to her life in the city when she was making that for her then boyfriend. And another scene where she can't seem to get a recipe right, just like the way her mom makes it, so she keeps going back to her childhood memory, to figure out what her mother (who has abandoned her and moved on) added. It is fascinating to see how our food habits are formed because of the weather, culture, childhood etc. This movie hits all the right notes of nostalgia, simplicity of rural life, the generous giving nature of the land, and rediscovering your roots. 

The direction is beautiful, and the director Jun'ichi Mori has done justice to the beautiful landscape of Tohoku region and the way food is captured. Is it even a good food-based movie, if you can't hear the crunchy sound of fresh homemade bread when someone bites into it? I may have done a little rewind to hear that sound of perfection. All in all, something I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone interested in food and human emotions. 

PS: It is based on a slice of life manga series illustrated by Daisuke Igarashi. Who knew manga is not just all about dark, action-y themes? Well, I didn't, until I started watch midnight diner.  I might just explore manga, and take it up as a hobby. Anything is possible in 2020, right? 


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