On the surface, About Her Brother seems very different from Yoji Yamada’s samurai masterpieces that have reached the U.S. in recent years, films like Twilight Samurai and The Hidden Blade. However, consistent with those films, and with Yamada’s service as the regular director of the long-running Tora-san series, About Her Brother is, at heart, a contemplative character study with room for both wry humor and tear-jerking emotion – a gentle portrait of fundamentally decent people under stress. The film follows Ginko, a widowed Tokyo pharmacist dealing with her daughter’s marriage and her ne’er-do-well younger brother Tetsuro, whose drunken antics and stubborn refusal to grow up cause her no end of trouble. The title may be Ototo or “younger brother” in Japanese and Yamada may have packed the cast with ringers – Tsurube Shofukutei (Dear Doctor) as Ginko and Yu Aoi (One Million Yen Girl, Hula Girls) – but the film really belongs to Sayuri Yoshinaga. As Ginko, Yoshinaga simultaneously captures affection, exasperation and embarrassment without ever sliding over the edge into caricature. Rated one of Japan’s 10 Best Films of 2010.
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