Review: Sweet Bean
Blu-Ray: Sweet Bean (2015)
Sentaro (Masatoshi Nagase) is a middle aged man trying to make ends meet by working in a struggling pancake shop. He is beholden to work there by the spiteful owner due to owing a debt for a mistake he made when he was younger. Everyday he goes through the motions, making pancakes and using off the shelf mixture to make the sweet bean filling.
Tokue (Kirin Kiki) is a strange elderly lady who visits the shop looking for work. As you would imagine Sentaro is initially sceptical about employing a woman of her age, especially as her hands have been crippled by leprosy. She claims that she can make an incredible bean filling so he decides to give her a chance.
Wakana (Kyara Uchida) is a lonely school girl who isn’t happy at home and dreams of running away. Her mother appears to have little interest in her and Sentaro takes pity on her giving her the reject pancakes so she has enough food to eat.
During the course of the movie Sentaro, Tokue and Wakana learn a lot more than what it takes to make good food. They learn that friendship, love and redemption can be found in the strangest places and that people can get a second chance if they are willing to open their heart.
I knew within the first 10 minutes of watching Sweet Bean that I would love the movie! The direction, introduction of the characters and sparse use of music are all beautifully handled. The director Naomi Kawase, manages to capture such striking vibrant images that even watching a cherry tree swaying in the wind evokes an emotional response. Although the movie could be in danger of becoming mawkish or sentimental, she expertly manoeuvres the film making you care about the characters without it turning into a melodrama.
The characters themselves are all wonderfully played and each of them is touched with an aching sadness that you feel is deep in their soul. Even though they are at different stages of their lives they have all experienced pain and loneliness which makes the moments of redemption even more powerful. Although Tokue has felt discrimination and segregation from society, she shows Sentaro and Wakana that the world can be beautiful if you just open your eyes.
All of the performances are great but I have to give special praise to Masatoshi Nagase who is captivating as Sentaro. There is a heartbreaking scene that will stay with me for a long time where he is trying to hold back years of regret and pain, his body is shaking as tears roll down his face and he finally allows himself to let it go.
Sweet Bean was one of the most beautiful, moving and life affirming films that I have seen in ages. I would absolutely recommend people check it out but just remember to pack your tissues because it made me cry, twice.
- High-definition presentation on the Blu-ray
- Optional English subtitles
- A new, exclusive video interview with Naomi Kawase
- Theatrical trailer
- A 32-page booklet featuring a new essay on the film by critic Philip Kemp; an interview and statement from Kawase, and production images