I enjoyed a rare trip to the cinema to see the new Japanese film Sweet Bean, directed by Naomi Kawase. Masatoshi Nagase stars as the manager of a small shop selling dorayaki, a sweet made from two little pancakes sandwiched with red bean paste. An elderly lady (played by Kirin Kiki) approaches him for work, gradually revealing herself as a great culinary talent, who can teach him how to make the ultimate red bean paste.
Sweet Bean starts out as a food movie par excellence, then morphs into something darker. There are many loving shots of pancake production and Azuki beans simmering, and in a sense the work of the shop is at the heart of the story. However, it is the growing rapport between the three main characters that draws you in close: the manager, the old woman and a schoolgirl customer (played by Kyara Uchida), each of them concealing their own private sorrows.
This was a moving story and, bar one or two moments of extreme slowness, absorbing throughout. The visual effects are beautiful, especially the classical emphasis on the passage of the seasons, and the great clouds of cherry blossoms. Recommended!
Sweet Bean (2015)
Director Naomi Kawase
Running time 113 min
You can view the trailer below.