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As we enter autumn in Japan, one national holiday provides us with the opportunity to show our love for our elders: “Respect for the Aged Day” (keirō no hi), which falls this year on Sept. 21. Of course, the pandemic has limited the opportunities we have for seeing our parents and grandparents. So spending quality time in 2020 may consist of streaming a film while on video chat together and having a good discussion afterward. Not ideal, but not that bad either. Here are six films, from tear-jerkers to side-splitters, that’ll remind you and your loved ones that age is nothing but a number.

“Still Walking (Aruitemo Aruitemo)” (2008)

Comparable to Yasujiro Ozu’s 1953 magnum opus “Tokyo Story,” Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Still Walking” (Japanese title: “Aruitemo Aruitemo”) depicts the various interactions between members of the same family as they commemorate the anniversary of the eldest son’s death. Indeed, while Ozu’s film shows the disintegration of a family, “Still Walking” does the opposite — with director Kore-eda (winner of the Palme d’Or for “Shoplifters”) bringing home the message that, ultimately, the ties that bind us are far too important to let go, no matter how tense things may be at times. Both gently humorous and deeply moving at different times, “Still Walking” is guaranteed to bring the family together in a celebration of family.

(Available on Amazon Prime Japan)


“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (2011)

Based on Deborah Moggach’s 2004 novel “These Foolish Things,” “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” sees a group of retirees who, while trying to find their place in life, engage in some light escapism amid the sights and sounds of Jaipur, India. Boasting an excellent cast that includes Academy Award-winners Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and BAFTA award recipient Bill Nighy, the film performs a delicate balancing act, featuring elements of romance, comedy and tragedy, often all at the same time. With a backdrop that showcases the beauty and vibrance of India, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is an excellent pick-me-up.

(Available on Amazon Prime Japan)


“Quartet” (2012)

The directorial debut of veteran actor Dustin Hoffman, and adapted from the Ronald Harwood play of the same name, “Quartet” centers on a retirement home for musicians that is turned upside down by the arrival of a diva opera singer (Academy Award recipient Maggie Smith), just as preparations for a celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Giuseppe Verdi are underway — with the aforementioned star reluctantly pulled in. Akin to “Amadeus” in its sumptuous soundtrack, “Quartet” makes excellent use of its cast (Smith, Golden Globe-winner Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and others) to enable a moving, yet hilarious, production.

(Available on Amazon Prime Japan)


“Nebraska” (2013)

Beautifully shot in black and white, “Nebraska” casts light on the importance of family with an understated, quiet humor that nevertheless has a touch of melancholy. The film follows Woody Grant (Bruce Dern), a tempestuous retiree who all but forces his son, David (Will Forte), to cash in a million dollar sweepstakes certificate delivered through the mail — despite the fact that, not only is the certificate a scam, the Grant family lives in Billings, Montana: the “prize” must be collected, in person, at the company headquarters in Lincoln, Nebraska. An episodic, “Odyssey”-like film with a slow burn, “Nebraska” is both heartwarming and funny, and the slow but steady rekindling of warmth between father and son, punctuated with incidents that are both humorous and wince-inducing is a timely reminder of the need to look out for one another and keep an open heart, in good times and bad.

(Available to rent at Tsutaya)


“Finding Your Feet” (2017)

Romance, dance and feel-good fun — who could ask for more? In the British rom-com “Finding Your Feet,” a standoffish, quasi-aristocrat named Lady (BAFTA award-winner Imelda Staunton) discovers that her husband of 40 years (John Sessions) is being unfaithful, and so she turns to her estranged, free-spirited sister (Celia Imrie) for support. Through her sister and a community dance class for senior citizens, Lady learns to start over. While, at first glance, this may seem your typical, run-of-the-mill fluff, director Richard Loncraine takes care to delve into more sensitive issues associated with old age, from terminal illness to senility. Full of energy from start to finish, this is certainly a film to get you (and your grandparents) on your feet.

(Available on Amazon Prime Japan)


“The Farewell” (2019)

“The Farewell,” a drama-comedy based on a radio story by director Lulu Wang, depicts the strenuous efforts by a family to keep a cancer diagnosis at bay as much as possible from Nai Nai (Zhao Shu-zhen), the family matriarch. Golden Globe-winner Awkwafina stars as Billi, a granddaughter who struggles to keep the secret from her beloved gran. A moving look at the struggle with terminal illness, this film’s strength lies in its cross-cultural nature — and the universality of its story, told with a poignance that is delicately balanced with a wry humor and heartwarming undertone. If ever there was a story that reminds us of the importance of maintaining a bond between generations, this is it.

(To be released in cinemas in Japan on Oct. 2)

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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