Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
Writer: Hirokazu Koreeda (screenplay)
Stars: Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Yôko Maki
The people in a blood relationship are called family, and the place where they live together is called their home. However, what would you do if those people whom you believed to be biologically related to you were not actually your blood? Is it right to keep the relationship of family with the same affection that you have had thus far? Or, is it right to form a new family by correctly sorting out the biological relationships? What does it mean to become a real family?
Ryota Nonomiya is the perfect office worker who never falls behind in his work even when faced with strong pressure. He became successful at an early age and lives affectionately with his family in a fancy apartment at the heart of Tokyo. One day, news from out of the blue is delivered to his family. He discovers that his sweet six-year-old son, Keita, is not his biological son. When Keita was born, the babies were swapped in the hospital. Ryota’s biological son was raised by someone else, in a completely different environment.
Ryota had never failed in his life. He had been better at everything than anyone else so he was confident that he could definitely sort out the tangled relationship of his family and raise his real biological son that he hasn’t even met yet. However, his biological son, Ryusei, who had been raised in a different environment for six years, is already living very happily with his “real” mom and dad at his “real” home. Also for Keita – even though he is not Ryota’s biological son, the people who have been taking care of him are his “real” mom and dad and the place where he is growing up is his “real” home. Ryota has been running forward only with great success until now. He has come to a crucial crossroads to find out what is the most precious thing in his life. The concept of life that Ryota has established begins to break down gradually through his experience with the other parents and innocence of the two children. Ryota comes to realize a very ordinary fact that family and home are something that people make together, not just preordained because of blood. He also realizes that his self and his life that he has regarded as superior and good were just within the frame of his own narrow conception. He even realizes that he has been treating and seeing the son he loves through his own frames. At the moment of his realizations, Ryota truly begins introspection. Such an odd circumstance has helped the two families realize the true meaning of family once again.
Throughout the film, you rarely find huge emotional swings or dramatic developments. However, the tranquility of the movie releases vibrations in our mind and it doesn’t easily calm down. Because that vibration comes from the real meaning of family, we are serenely reminded of our family and our home yet again from the camera angles and light in which we see the families. This film has given warm inspiration to so many people all over the world and eventually won the Jury Prize from the 2013 Festival de Cannes.
Then what is the true meaning of ‘family’ and ‘home’ beyond the dictionary definition? As the two boys in the movie felt, what creates deeper ties than a blood relationship are the times spent together. Even after a second passes by, that time never comes back again. How grateful it is that we can spend such precious times together at this very moment. We often forget about it. However, all of those precious people with whom you spend time with can become your family, caring for each other and loving and accepting each other unconditionally. If you think you cannot love others who aren’t blood related, it is time to change that viewpoint. We are all originally from the place of oneness. Therefore, even a distinction between my family and your family is not that important of a matter when seen from a broader perspective. When you abandon the frame of your mind first and have a bigger capacity for somebody else, you can become real family.
Furthermore, home isn’t just a place of accommodation for sleeping and eating. Anywhere you can spend your precious times with precious people can be your real home. If you go beyond even the concept of space, ties that are deeper than blood arises when you actually become one mind with others. Then, the place where our minds can become one – the place that is already of oneness – is the pure original nature of all of us. That is, the pure mind of the universe emptiness. It is the place transcending any kinds of attachments, expectations, judgments, discernments and conceptions. It is the universe that has no minds at all. I earnestly hope that everyone recovers that mind and meets the real family there so that all of us can live happily at our true home that is the origin.