Hana Hirokazu Kore-eda

Director Hirokazu Kore-eda has been famous for his quiet approaches to explosive subject matter, but he may have met his match with the samurai tradition that figures so prominently in Hana. Though he does his best to subvert genre requirements, he doesn’t tame the beast so much as sweeten it, and the results are only fitfully interesting. Our hero is a samurai who lives on the edge of Japan’s oft-filmed "Loyal 47 Ronin” legend; he’s supposed to be working on vengeance for his slain father, but is hampered by being a gentle sort who wouldn’t hurt a fly and a piss-poor swordsman who couldn’t fight his way out of a paper bag. He’d much rather consort with a comely widow who lives in his slum tenement or with, in fact, any of the irascible sorts who live in the houses next to him. Much gentle humour ensues, but unlike other Kore-eda films there’s a thesis statement attached to every bit, and the flow of action is hampered with finger-wagging admonitions to be nice. Fortunately, the director is all pro, and he manages to sell his more saccharine conceits with some unhurried visuals that take all day to get where they’re going even as the ideological through line is constantly goosing you to significance. As long as the film doodles aimlessly with our hero and his ladylove, the movie is not bad, when it tries to draw you to the nub of its rather simple gist, it’s a little obvious, though not enough to seriously grate. At 127 minutes, the film is a little long to support its thesis, but there are pleasures to be had along the way if you don’t take the childlike approach to heart. (Favored Nations)