Japanese director Naoko Ogigami’s most recent international cinematic offering, filmed in Toronto in 2009 and featuring a mostly Canadian cast and production team, is an off-the-wall comedy about three siblings — a nerdy engineer, a brilliant pianist and an aspiring air guitarist, who collectively struggle to relate to their estranged Japanese grandmother after the death of their mother.
Known for her poignant humour and the charming sensibility in her body of work – Kamome Diner (2006) and Megane (2007) – Ogigami delights in placing her characters in situations that force them to deal with the peculiarities and problems of everyday life. Nerdy thirty-something Ray (Alex House) is just fine, doing his own thing. Balancing his life somewhere in between peacefulness and boredom, he is content with his lab job, predictable work clothes and his obsession with plastic toys. But after his mother’s death, he reluctantly finds himself back home with his eccentric brother Maury (David Rendall), who suffers from severe anxiety, and their bossy sister Lisa (Tatiana Maslany), who demands that Ray take more of an active role in the family. Still coping with the loss of their mother, the siblings must also care for their baa-chan (Masako Motai), who just arrived from Japan and doesn’t speak a word of English.
Frustrated by this disruption to his daily routine, Ray becomes increasingly obsessed with the bathroom rituals of his baa-chan and questions whether or not she is “really” part of their family. Through a series of hysterically comedic events, he discovers that she really isn’t who he’d expected. Of course, neither is he.
It’s wonderful to see the west end of Toronto on the big screen, and to see Canadian talent in such a high-profile international film. Through this well-crafted and entertaining film, Ogigami brings out sweet and endearing performances from all three young actors, as well as from veteran actress Masako Motai, who won the Japanese Academy Award for Best Actress in her supporting role in Kamone Diner.
Producers: Shuichi Komuro, Kumi Kobata, Sean Buckley, Joel Burch
Cast: Masako Motai, Alex House, Tatiana Maslany, David Rendall
Naoko Ogigami graduated from the Image Science program at Chiba University in Japan before moving to the US in 1994 to study film at the University of Southern California in L.A. She worked as an assistant for TV commercials, promotional videos and films in the U.S. before returning to Japan in 2000 to make her feature-length film debut, Yoshino’s Barber Shop (2003). More recently, Ogigami gained both national and international recognition with Kamome Diner and Megane.