Review of 'Oshin'

oshin.jpg A 7-year old girl Oshin (Kokone Hamada) is sent to work by her peasant family in the early 20th century in exchange for rice. She works long and hard for a cruel and merciless house mistress in the cold winter of the mountains. When she is falsely accused of stealing she runs away and rescued by a deserter from the army in hiding and living off the land. Oshin is much loved as the deserter teaches her to read and write, however, this arrangement is not to last and as the snow melts he takes Oshin down the mountain to the city but along the way they are discovered by a passing army patrol…

Based on a NHK daytime television series (playing to “housewives”) from the 80s this is not a film for the faint of heart. An incredibly young girl forced to become an adult well before her time shows her strength of character and determination to, in her eyes, redeem herself to her family. This is a story very much at the heart of Japanese culture and consciousness with the themes of honour and duty prominent. Yes, it is a tough life for this young girl but see how she works hard and gets through it, managing to succeed where many would have failed. The reunion at the end where Oshin is able to sit back and observe and appreciate how her mother always has cared for her family is a touching.

I am not sure how much of the message of this film is appreciated in the west and the message that “woman (specifically) struggle hard and are not appreciated but should continue anyway” is probably not going to wash well for many but it does lie at the heart of the Japanese.

Beautifully shot in the snow-draped mountains of Japan (nice to see authentic snow in film) where tight scenes on the main characters heighten the emotion. Kokone Hamada is stunning as Oshin. An incredible child actor whose commitment to the role is there to see on the screen, an utterly believable performance. All the other actors can do is simply react to this stunning tour de force. I can't think without her the film would ever have been as powerful as it is.

I expect the pacing of the film may also grate for some with many pictures of Oshin walking or running through the mountains (often in the snow). This is a character study, not an action flick and it is not afraid to take time on the characters. It is all the much better for it.

Touching and poignant. I defy you to watch without a moist eye. Powerful, moving stuff.

Rating: “I have absolutely no complaints”

Review Date: 2018-08-18

Directed by: Shin Togashi

Studio: Asahi Shimbun

Year: 2013

Length: 110 minutes

Genre: Melodrama