In a testament to film’s appeal to the Japanese audience, only four months after the March 2016 release of the original movie, this sequel was greenlighted, with Yoji Yamada presenting once again, the shenanigans of a truly crazy, but very lovable family.
“What A Wonderful Family 2” screened at Fantasia International Film Festival
The story takes place several years after the events of the first movie, when Shuzo, the patriarch of the family almost divorced from his wife, Tomiko. Shuzo, however, is once more the central character, as the two parts of the film revolve around him. The first regards the (conspiring) efforts of the rest of the family to persuade him to stop driving, after realizing that his car has a number of dents, and the second his meeting with Ginnpei Maruta, an old schoolmate who has disappeared. The old friends decide to go on a night of extreme drinking at Kayo’s bar (whom Shuzo continues to flirt) and while they have a truly great time, the conclusion is rather dramatic.
Yamada continues his path on the contemporary Japanese social film, although his style includes much more comedy than is usual the case in similar films. This comedy derives mainly from the character of Shuzo, whose stubbornness and frequent drunkenness results in a number of hilarious episodes. The difference in the characters of the family members is another source of comedy, as is the case with Konosuke’s semblance to his father, which is highlighted by the way both drink and keep scratching their bottom in public.
However, the dramatic tone is not missing, with Ginnpei being the main source of this aspect. Yamada uses his character to comment on the blights of elderly loneliness and to stress that the Hiratas, despite their frequent “dysfunctions,” have one another. Even in the serious episodes though, Yamada manages to incorporate some comic moments, as in the funeral scene during the end.
The acting is probably the best aspect of the film. Isao Hashizume is once more great as Shuzo Hirata, with the film actually revolving around his character. Nenji Kobayashi as Ginnpei is a great addition, in a character that combines the dramatic with the comedic in the best way. These two also highlight Yamada’s ability to direct veteran actors. Satoshi Tsumabuki as Shota and Yu Aoi as Noriko make an adorable couple, while Senjiro Fujiyama is hilarious in the role of the rookie police officer.
Technically, both Masashi Chikamori’s cinematography and Iwao Ishii’s editing are in par with the film’s comic, but realistic aesthetics, with the former using the cramped house in the best possible way, as the film occasionally functions as a stage play. The same applies to Joe Hisaishi’s music, which stresses the general sense of each episode in very fitting and subtle fashion.
“What a Wonderful Family” is a great sample of the contemporary, Japanese family comedy and a testament of how elderly actors can be “used” in a present-day movie.