On the occasion of his father’s one-year memorial, Yohei (Hoshi Ishida) returns to his home town to meet his family. As his mother and sister still pretend as if his father’s spirit surrounds them, he has been dreading coming back to his family in the last months, even if it is only for a few days. To add to his stress, he also has not been feeling well lately, since he has had certain visions in which he sees doppelganger versions of people. Eventually, he is unable to keep his feelings and his stress inside any longer so when his mother insists on keeping the memory of his father alive, he finally confronts her about the reality of death as well as his own feelings.
Essentially, “Farewell Family” is a film about grief and the possibility of letting go. At the center of the movie, Hoshi Ishida gives an emotional performance as a man experiencing the paradox of not being able to deal with his father’s death while at the same time seeking a certain emotional distance from his family. Director Kohei Sanada embeds this conflict within Yohei being on the brink of starting a family of his own, defining his story as one about transition as well. For obvious reasons, therefore, the repeated use of scenes with cars, ships or trains follows the idea of both, a return to the memory of home as well as transitioning to a different stage in life.
Additionally, Sanada introduces a supernatural element to his story quite early on. Although it is debatable whether these are merely caused by his grief or stress, the frequent visions of people, for example, when Yohei sees two versions of his mother in the same room, these images add an interesting psychological layer to the story. While at times this addition may be a bit too much for the already extensive narrative and thematic levels of the story, their ambivalent nature creates a distinct tension for the character, as he is trying to overcome his emotional issues.
However, apart from Ishida, the director can rely on a believable chemistry within his small ensemble cast supporting the emotional themes of the film. Especially the scenes in the family home – photographed in a very Ozu-like manner – present the various ways of dealing with grief and the loss of a loved one, while also showing the kind of conflict which may erupt.
In the end, “Farewell Family” is an emotional journey about overcoming grief and loss, about moving on in your life without suspending the memory of the person who is no longer there. Supported by a great cast and decent cinematography, director Kohei Sanada has proven to be a capable director in the field of drama and will hopefully receive the necessary means to make a longer feature in the near future.