Still the Water
Directed by Naomi Kawase
Taking place during the full-moon night of traditional dances in August and set on the Japanese island of Amami-Oshima, the drama centers on a 14-year-old boy who finds a dead body floating in the sea. The young man enlists the help of his girlfriend to solve the mystery. The pair “will learn to become adults by experiencing the interwoven cycles of life, death and love.
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★★★★½ review by MrJago on Letterboxd
"The gods, they die too."
Cinema at its most meditative. Nature and Death and the Waves keep coming in. Very impressed with Jun Yoshinaga's presence.
Naomi Kawase films are in a sphere of their own.
★★★½ review by Rakestraw on Letterboxd
Equal parts tranquil, meditative mood piece and stagnant, forced drama Naomi Kawase's Still the Water ebbs and flows between powerful poignancy and irritating nothingness.
The narrative involving the young girl's family, specifically her dying mother, packs a ton of emotion in their relatively simple sequences, effortlessly conveying all the pain stemming from the foreseeable departure of the shaman matriarch. Father and daughter in deeply yearning to share every moment they have left with her; under the banyan tree basking in the sunlight with cool island breeze, teasing each other, singing songs and such. These simple, genuine moments resonant with such emotion weight...simple filmmaking at its finest.
Now, the narrative between the young boy and girl, the blossoming love affair that runs concurrently with the aforementioned narrative is a bit lacking in its emotional impact. Plus, the familial drama that crops up between the young boy and his mother felt a bit immature and underdeveloped, like Kawase felt the need to hurry some drama into the mix towards the end.
Overall, Still the Water is essentially a masterpiece of earnest sentiment towards loss and melancholy weaved with an underdeveloped dramatic narrative throughout, continuously distracting from the naturalistic beauty of the island and the family's time together.
★★★★ review by Tarryn-tino on Letterboxd
I was unsure what to expect of this. Of the two films that I have so far watched by Kawase, one I absolutely adored and the other was just OK/not really for me, mainly because of the relative lack of plot. So with the title and film cover, plus the added knowledge of the films she makes I had a feeling it was going to be all pretty pictures and no real substance.
Thankfully I was wrong.
Still the Water, while not as strong as Sweet Bean, was a stunning blend of stunning cinematography and scenery, paired with beautiful, but simply story-telling of various relationships: two young lovers, father & son, mother & son, mother & daughter, father & daughter and acceptance of death.
At one point, I found myself completely overwhelmed by emotion by what I was watching that I was full on sobbing, so much so I couldn't even catch my breath.
As far as the cast go, Jun Yoshinaga was extremely strong right from the beginning and I really enjoyed her performance. It took me a little longer to warm up to Nijirô Murakami, who felt very one dimensional for the first third of the film. Thankfully, once the story started to unravel a little more, he came good and was almost as good as her co-star by the end.
One last thing I will say about Kawase's films is that she does as amazing job of showcasing scenery around less populated parts of Japan. It gives me the biggest desire to go there and just spend months wondering through the countryside and by the sea.
Enjoyed it a lot and would recommend, though I know it won't be for everyone.
★★★½ review by C.J. on Letterboxd
Allow me to be the first person on Letterboxd to give this an endorsement.
I like Kawase. Maybe it's just me, but she really nails a kind of relaxed, inviting rhythm that goes nicely with the large-scale themes she likes to tackle. It's a pleasant film, one that doesn't stick the landing, but still deserves more than the harsh response it got out of Cannes.
★★★★ review by pascal ehrlich on Letterboxd
"Still the Water" gehört dem "Coming-of-Age" Genre an, ist aber in seiner Essenz eigentlich ein Film über Abschiede und Übergänge. Die Regisseurin Naomi Kawase entfaltet diese Geschichte über zwei Jugendliche und ihre Familien, die auf der japanischen Insel Amami-Oshima leben, mit meditativer Sorgfalt. "Futatsume no mado" bedeutet wortwörtlich ins Deutsche übersetzt: immer noch das Meer; das Meer, das schon immer war und auch immer sein wird. Dieser Titel verdeutlich es einem noch stärker, wie wichtig und ausdrucksstark, die Natur in dem Film ist. Naomi Kawase schafft dem Wilden und Ungebundenem der Mangrovenbäumen, des Strandes und des scharfen Windes und des Meeres und des Wellenganges eine lyrische Form zu geben, die man als Poesie bezeichnen kann. (Vielleicht aber hat die Natur schon immer eine Poesie besessen und die Regisseurin weiß wo diese zu finden ist.) Ich besitze eine irrationale, schwer erklärbare Affinität zu asiatischen Filmen; vor allem zu japanischen. Diese Film, die eigentlich in einer ganz anderen Welt entstanden sind, wecken in mir eine fremde Vertrautheit, die mich gefangen nimmt. Diese Gefühl stieg in mir auf, als ich zum ersten Mal "Still the Water" gesehen habe.
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