The ramifications of divorce rock a family in this heartfelt comedy about grandparents who decide to separate after almost 50 years. With several generations all living under the same roof, each adult sibling and their own families struggle to put aside their own issues to face the break-up of the household heads.
This is an ensemble piece, led by Kazuko Yoshiyuki as Tomiko Hirata whose birthday has been forgotten yet again. When she reminds her husband (Isao Hashizume), and he replies that he will buy her something cheap, she tells him what she wants most – a divorce.
As the news slowly filters through the family, they collectively go into crisis and squabble more than usual as they struggle to find a way to save the failing marriage.
Director Yoji Yamada doesn’t skimp on the deeper side of the tale, with clear messages about what makes a relationship last. Layered over that however, is a highly amusing collective of dysfunctional people dealing with a dysfunctional relationship. It’s ripe for farce, but Yamada limits the temptation to a few slapstick moments, relying instead on the more natural and varied reactions of individuals to the unfolding breakup.
What a Wonderful Family! is a funny and endearing comedy that manages to teach us a thing or two about personal need. It’s a fitting selection to open this year’s Japanese Film Festival in Adelaide and, if it’s any indication of things to come, this year’s Festival should be just as great as last year’s.
There’s a lot more to Japanese cinema than just monsters, manga and martial arts. Get a taste of it.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 9
What a Wonderful Family! will open the Japanese Film Festival on Friday 21 October and screen again on 30 October. The 20th Japanese Film Festival runs 21-30 October 2016 exclusively at the Mercury Cinema. All films screen with English subtitles.