Now and then, we stumble upon a movie so wonderful that we are left forever changed after watching it. Last night, I had the pleasure to watch ‘AN’ – Sweet Bean a Japanese film directed by Naomi Kawase, starring Kirin Kiki, Masatoshi Nagase and Kyara Uchida. This film, which is currently available to watch on Now TV explores the complex meaning of life, forgiveness and acceptance. This masterpiece taught me life changing lessons I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
The movie tells the story of the beautiful friendship between Sentaro, a quiet middle aged man who runs a Doriyaki shop, Tokue, a lady in her mid 70’s who ends up working for Sentaro as a sweet bean paste maker and Wakana, a school girl. The film shows how their beautiful relationship with each other blossom and together, they form a dynamic connection even though they come from three different generations; making this film engaging and relatable for people of all ages.
‘AN- Sweet Bean’ superbly captures the emotions of all the characters without the need for too much dialogue. In fact, the charm is in the simplicity of the whole film. Kiki, Nagase and Uchida all delivered excellent performances which made this movie so splendidly authentic. There is no overacting in this film, it’s pure and honest. Plenty of scenes show the graceful and hardworking nature of Tokue, the old lady who despite her old age continues to have a zest for life; always noticing the beauty of nature, cherry blossoms and all the simple things surrounding her. Sentaro and Tokue’s hidden pains and stories pierce through our hearts even without the elaborate displays of sadness and long monologues on screen. The simplicity of the shots, subtle cues and symbolism in many of the scenes all make for an emotionally stirring watch. You will almost feel like you are subconsciously touched from within. I couldn’t believe that three simple scenes where Tokue and Sentaro make eye contact in silence were enough to make me cry. That’s how powerful and moving this movie is.
Tokue played by Kirin Kiki
This film also found a great balance in showing the contrast between modern and the traditional ways of living; with Tokue’s secret to making the most delicious sweet bean paste by honouring each bean and patiently preparing them from scratch while Sentaro preferred to pre-order them before Tokue started working for him. There’s also Wakana’s pet, a caged yellow Canary bird, feeling trapped which I feel served as a symbol and representation of Tokue, Sentaro and Wakana’s restricted lives.
Naomi Kawase managed to deliver an incredible masterpiece. The script’s delicate poetry and and the silence in between the pauses in their dialogues create intense and emotional connections between the characters and the audiences. Kawase found the right balance in everything. It’s a charming movie which is sure to capture your heart. It’s a film everyone will relate to and something I feel everyone needs to see especially if you’re like me who is constantly searching for the true meaning of life.