Saturday, September 22, 2007

[Japanese Film Festival] Gabai Granny (佐賀のがばいばあちゃん / Saga No Gabai Baachan)

Super Granny

Gabai Granny is based on the bestseller Saga No Gabai Baachan (Gabai Granny from Saga), which is penned by comedian Shimada Yoshichi as he recounts his childhood memories of growing up under the care of his grandmother. And without a doubt, this is possibly one of the crowd favourites given the high turnout of Japanese folks who have come for this screening.

Starring the evergreen Yoshiyuki Kazuko in the title role, it tells the story of a young boy Akihiro, who was sent against his wishes and to his surprise, to the countryside to brought up by his grandmother. In all four movies screened today, it seemed that it's common for parents who are struggling to cope with life, to either sell their children, or to send them away in the hopes that someone else can assist in taking care of them. In Akihiro's case, it is no different, as his mother (played by Kudoh Youki) struggles as a bar-hostess.

To a young boy, journeying to a faraway place, and living in conditions alien to him, definitely makes him miss home. Worse, he is not familiar with his grandmother and her ways too. But this is Gabai Granny we're talking about, and within minutes of her introduction, you'll fall for her warmth ways. We slowly discover, together with Akihiro in his growing pains, just how resourceful Granny is, and she's possibly the first eco-friendly person too, with values of recycling and reusing greatly entrenched within her personal values.

The merits of the story, and the lessons learnt from Granny, is both touching and by no means forceful in having them shoved down your throat. And kudos to Yashiyuki's earnest and heartwarming portrayal of a Granny who truly cares, and loves unconditionally. There is much to be learnt from her philosophy on thrift, though when it comes to spending, she goes for nothing but the best. But possibly the best lesson that can be learnt from her, is to always look at the positive side of adversary, to never be beaten down. She imparts excellent values, positive thinking and reasoning peppered with comedy, you can't help but feel endeared to her.

Love, friendship, good advice, and plenty of everything else makes Gabai Granny a delight to watch. However, I felt that the ending was a little too abrupt for my liking, as it probably didn't provide me an ending that seemed satisfactory, not that it's cliched though, far from it. Fans of Ken Ogata (who has featured himself quite a bit in this Festival with Vengeance is Mine and Ballad of Narayama) will probably sit up and notice his Tofu seller role here.

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