My Little Sweet Pea Review
Director: Yoshida Keisuke
Starring: Maki Horikita, Ryuhei Matsuda, Yo Kimiko, Nukumizu Yoichi, and Aso Yumi
Mugiko (Maki Horikita) is a young woman living in a modest apartment with her brother Norio (Ryuhei Matsuda). Working towards tuition for a voice acting school, she gets a surprise when her mother Saiko (Yo Kimiko) appears wanting to live with the siblings. Having disappeared before Mugiko could even remember her, she finds the cloying and disruptive appearance of a virtual stranger in her home unwanted at best. When Saiko unexpectedly dies, it is left to Mugiko to return her mother’s remains back to her rural hometown; discovering that she heavily resembled her mother in her youth. Meeting the people who knew her mother from birth, she begins to learn about just who her mother was and get some understanding about why she was absent for her entire life.
Yoshida Keisuke directs this solid family drama that has some very serious dramatic acting from the young and talented Maki Horikita and provides an oddly gripping but still slight film experience. Tackling themes of abandonment issues, regret, and forgiveness with a gentle hand, the picture is an effective drama that only slightly misses the mark with an ending that feels off despite the good structure of the film. Filled with some good photography capturing brightness and confined side of Tokyo as well as the open and muted color palatte of the countryside, the film looks quite good. The film score is a mix of traditional style themes and rustic era appropriate music including the iconic song by Matsuda Seiko of which the film shares its title.
Horikita has definitely established herself as one of the more versatile young actresses working today with her numerous appearances in comedies and dramas, both on television and in cinema. Carrying the movie, Horikita has been criticized for not having as expressive a face in the past, but her stoicism is quite a benefit here as emotion subtly play across her face as her character comes to understand a person she had always imagined about but never really knew. It’s a very nuanced performance that succeeds for the most part, her own feelings, as well as her denials, making for a very intuitive and complex viewer experience.
The supporting cast is rounded out with Yo Kimiko who appears as a mystery as well as a memorable, albeit minor, role as the aloof brother Norio. Extra acclaim for the duo of Aso and Nukumizu who play locals and childhood friends of Mugiko’s mother.
My Little Sweet Pea is a very quiet and introspective film about the nature of forgiveness and the emotions we keep within. While not really a heavy film it does take care in its portrayal of the Japanese cultural importance of lineage and familial ties. A very solid viewing.