The interesting name was what initially attracted me to this documentary. And in Japanese, it did sound good too. But there was a lot more to the name which writer/director Yuki Kawamura had in store, as I was about to find out.

A widower reaches out to the friends and acquaintances of his deceased wife. He is trying to help his son Yuki, who has very few memories of his mother. Through the intimate narratives, Norie comes alive as this effervescent woman who was independent and free spirited (though selfish at times as per her husband) enough to live her dreams.

Norie” is screening at Sheffield Doc/Fest

The interviews and road trips are in black & white although there are some sequences like Norie’s daughter talking, the roses in the stream, closing shots which merge into the fog etc which enjoy the vibrancy of colour. Yuki, the son who is in search of his mother’s past is not shown, whereas the daughter whose attachment to her mother is limited to photographs does have screen time. The format of a documentary is maintained in most part, except when Norie herself speaks to us towards the end.

The matter-of-fact stance of the husband as the facilitator of this exploration slowly loosens as he engages more and more in the conversations. He ultimately has a breakdown and shows the influence Norie had on him after all those years.

Natural sounds, especially that of wind rustling through tall grass have been used effectively. O-Bon festival and the dance ritual are shown as part of the passing and how families deal with them. More than the son, the documentary may seem to have been directed at Norie’s soul itself. There is search for a person in the memory of others, validation of feelings after a whole many years and the inspiration left behind by a person who lived her dreams.

A slow paced and emotionally engaging experience which deftly lets us piece together the narratives and come up with our own version of Norie. Dreams are passed on, even as the dead happily find their place in heaven.

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