Facing both family tragedy and the unpredictable rhythms of nature, two teenagers on a subtropical Japanese island find solace in each other, in this gorgeous and poetic cinematic vision from director Naomi Kawase (Shara, The Mourning Forest).

Contemporary World Cinema

Still the Water

Naomi Kawase

Gorgeous, stirring, and imbued with wisdom, this latest film from Japan's cinematic poet Naomi Kawase transports us to the subtropical island of Amami-Oshima, where villagers live in harmony with the rhythms of nature — be they gentle and life-giving or violent and destructive.

The morning after a typhoon hits the island, sixteen-year-old Kaito (Nijiro Murakami) finds a dead man floating face down in the sea. This unsettling discovery is the first in a series of events that will transform the lives of Kaito and his classmate Kyoko (Jun Yoshinaga), both of whom are already dealing with profound domestic upheaval. While Kyoko prepares to say goodbye to her terminally ill mother, Isa (Miyuki Matsuda), Kaito's household is also in disarray: his mother is newly single, his father gone back to his native Tokyo. As their families endeavour to weather the storms of change, Kaito and Kyoko find consolation in each other's company.

Loss, loneliness, first love — Still the Water evokes life's most fundamental experiences with compassion and serenity. Kawase's hand-held camera glides through scenes like a drifting spirit, bearing witness to the intimate moments and public rituals that bind this community together, from a sage old fisherman slaughtering a goat to friends and family holding vigil over Isa, dancing and singing shima-uta to the plucked melodies of the sanshin.

Before Still the Water comes to its close, more upheaval will visit Amami-Oshima, confrontation will erupt, a love will grow. It is all, as the island shamans reassure us, part of a great cycle, and this beautiful film guides us through its joys and sorrows with wonder and grace.

GIOVANNA FULVI

Screenings

Thu Sep 04

Scotiabank 14

Industry
6:30pm
Thu Sep 11

The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Regular
8:30pm
Fri Sep 12

TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Regular
6:15pm
Sun Sep 14

Scotiabank 3

Regular
12:30pm