Saturday, September 22, 2007

[Japanese Film Festival] Oriume (折り梅)


Veteran actress Yoshiyuki Kazuko was very sprightly in her introduction to her movie Oriume. She explained to the audience that the movie is based on a true story. She didn't know people who have Alzheimer's, but learnt a lot about the disease through her role in the movie. She also had visited the place where sufferers live, and spent time interacting and trying to understand them. The doctor had told her the sufferers, though stricken with the disease, will still be able to know who is approaching them with good or ill intentions. She of course, had goodwill, and spent time knowing their feelings and emotions in order to portray them accurately.


Movies can entertain, and they can educate, and with Oriume, it brought about a better understanding of Alzheimer's Disease in the way that it was portrayed as is without any big melodramatic moments to drag the story or cast an overly sympathetic view of patients suffering from its symptoms. I thought it managed to strike a neat balance between the victim and the true sufferers - that of the caregiver, most likely being the family members rather than healthcare professionals.

And it is this family aspect of it that Oriume shines. How often it is when you have a sick elderly person in the house, that siblings can't wait to shrug their obligation, and pass the buck around most easily to the one who is deemed has the most free time on hand? And in doing so, cook up various excuses and nary will lend any resource to assist? The same thing happens to Tomoe (Mieko Harada), whose mother in law is suffering from Alzheimer's, and their household taking on the responsibility because of insensitive and selfish relatives.

Of course it seemed like the right thing to do, since nobody wants to lend a helping hand, and her own family values mean leaving nobody behind. But mother in law Masako (veteran actress Yoshiyuki Kazuko) begins to exhibit more random symptoms from simple forgetfulness to more aggressive mood swings, and this begin to take their toil on Tomoe, worse still being her children and husband failing to understand the situation, expecting her to take it in her stride, or to throw her to a home.

Oriume is an extremely heartwarming journey from breaking point to understanding and reconciliation. Both actresses play off each other's strengths, and forged an excellent chemistry as patient-caregiver, mother-daughter-in-law, and of best friends. It brings out a reminder too that in difficult situations like these, moral support amongst family and having everyone chip in, do go a long way to keep the household sane. There shouldn't be a need to shrug responsibility or let it rest on the shoulders of an individual, as the saying goes, more hands make less work. Not to mention, plenty of patience and an arsenal of knowledge help loads too. What's even more admirable here, that we can always learn from, is that Tomoe is an in-law, not direct blood relations, but that doesn't deter her from giving nothing but the best form of care she can dish.

However the movie doesn't feel clinical at all by throwing at you all the medical terms. It demonstrates how to cope with the disease in a much subtle and common manner, weaving a poignant tale within, and I'm sure had definitely touched the audience this evening, as you can hear sniffles all round. Both Yoshiyuki Kazuko and Mieko Harada were excellent in their roles, and the movie can't possibly exude a certain warm feeling toward the end, if not for their portrayals.

I will definitely recommend this movie to anyone who would like to experience a moving tale on family, and of course to learn a little bit more of the Disease. Those who would like a primer on Alzheimer's, can click on this link.

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