“About Her Brother” – 2010 Japan Cuts Film Festival Review

Director Yoji Yamada accurately captures the portrait of how a black sheep has a lasting effect on his family in “About Her Brother.”  The result is a film that begins as a light depiction of a cringe-inducing relative and ends as a moving testament to the fact that blood is thicker than water.

The film focuses primarily on the relationship between Ginko (Sayuri Yoshinaga) and her ne’er-do-well younger brother Tetsuro (Tsurube Shofukutei).  However, it is Ginko’s daughter, Koharu (played by the luminous Yu Aoi), who provides a narration that gets viewers up to speed on the family history.  Koharu’s father died when she was young.  Tetsuro tried to take his place, but his drinking and subsequent antics often got in the way.  Ginko never remarried.  Now it is time for Koharu’s own wedding, which Tetsuro attends, but then promptly makes a fool of himself and ruins the proceedings.

That incident is just the beginning, as Ginko must decide how to deal with her brother in the aftermath of the ruined wedding.  Those who have a relative who seems to never give but constantly receives can relate to the oscillations that Ginko experiences, one minute wanting to disown her brother and the next minute feeling guilty about abandoning her role as an older sister.  Shofukutei in particular does a fine job as Tetsuro; although he doesn’t occupy the most screen time in the film, the lingering effects of his behavior when he is not shown indicates how his presence looms over the other characters.  When he is shown at length at the end, it is a reminder that while friends may come and go, family is the tie that binds.

“About Her Brother” screens Fri., July 16, at 6:15 p.m. at the Japan Society in New York as part of the 2010 Japan Cuts Festival.  For tickets, go to japansociety.org/japancuts.