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July 1, 2015

Film + EntertainmentReview | by Francesco Cerniglia


Exquisitely poetic, Still the Water tells the story of Kyoko (Jun Yoshinaga), a sixteen-year-old girl who is falling in love for the first time with the elusive Kaito (Nijiro Murakami) while facing her mother´s terminal illness.

Set against this turmoil of emotions is the mysterious death of a tattooed man found by the beach, who turns out to be connected to Kaito´s mother (Makiko Watanabe). Hurt by his parents´ divorce, Kaito tries to make sense of his feelings for Kyoko, who openly lets him know she loves him, as he struggles to overcome the resentment he feels towards his caring mother.

Set in the beautiful island of Amami Oshima (in the South of Japan) the story unravels quietly, much like the life of the place. Director Naomi Kawase often uses the murmur of the sea to fill the silence, but she also creates beautiful family scenes between Kyoko and her parents Isa (Miyuki Matsuda) and Toru (Tetta Sugimoto), in which we are allowed to discover the true nature of the characters and their most inner feelings and thoughts.

As Kyoko´s mother approaches her last breath, we are thrown into a world that appeals to the senses in a spiritual and moving way, and are left with a comforting sense of peace. Far from the drama that the subject encompasses, Kawase deals with death in a mystic way and lets nature become part of the tranquil atmosphere of the film.

The scenes under water become almost dreamlike and add to the restrained mood of the overall story, just like the bike rides by the seaside. The simple beauty that characterises Kawase´s work bursts in every shot, while the story flows as if brushed by the waves of the ocean, which repetitively are shown throughout the film.

The delicate rhythm of the film is broken by Kaito´s trip to Tokyo, where he meets his father, and later on, by Kyoko, who like a raging wave, confronts Kaito. Although visually beautiful and emotionally touching, Still the Water feels too abstract and vague at times, creating a sense of disconnection that manages to hold the events together by a thin thread.

Storylines such as the death of the man at the beginning of the film are almost forgotten and many questions are unanswered. However, the calmness of the film, achieved by the music and the photography, inevitably permeates through our pores leaving a quiet satisfaction in our hearts.

Still The Water is released in UK cinemas on July 3rd

Sara Mendez