We live in an ageing society, and as the EU referendum demonstrated, you ignore the grey vote at your peril. However, the way societies treat their elderly differs around the world. The same can be said for those with traditionally infectious diseases and disabilities. In Naomi Kawase’s latest film, Sweet Bean, she takes a meditative looks at these and other social issues through the relationship between three generations of Japanese society.
Sentaro (Masatoshi Nagase) is a middle-aged man whose life revolves around a dorayaki shop. He’s tied in to running it in order to pay back a loan and whilst he has one dedicated regular customer (Kyara Uchida) there’s something missing from his creations. When he advertises for an assistant Tokue (Kirin Kiki), a lady in her mid-seventies, applies. Sentaro initially refuses her application because he doesn’t think she’s up to the job. That’s until he tastes her sweet bean sauce.
Sweet Bean is undoubtedly one of Naomi Kawase’s most accessible films. However, it’s a very languid and placid film, so concentration and patience is the key. However, you’ll be rewarded, as it’s a very sweet and affecting film which will gently tug at your heartstrings and leave your eyes more than a little moist. Both Nagase and Kiki are excellent and Kawase manages to subtly raise several questions about modern Japan without having to bang any drums.
Sweet Bean is released on dual format Blu-ray and DVD by Eureka Entertainment as part of their Masters of Cinema collection on Monday.