For some reason unexplained the thought of Yasmin Ahmad's Muallaf came to mind when I read the premise of this film. The only remote connection these two films shared, is how a pair of siblings are on the run from their parents, with one parent thinking that the older sister had abducted the younger one. In Water Flower, Minako (Saki Terashima) does just that, but on her seven year old half-sister Yu (Himawari Ono) when she enticed the latter to escape with her to Aihama with the promise of toys and an ocean view.
I suppose once you strike that emotional connection with a small kid, they're more than likely to follow you especially when you deliver promise after promise of a fun time. More so when both Minako and Yu share some common DNA coming from the same mother Shiori, who had separated from Minako's dad, and forming a new family nucleus with Yu, and in some ways abandoning the teenage Minako. The introduction dwells on establishing this fractured family dynamics and challenges to livelihood, setting the narrative for that chance meeting and encounter between the two half sisters at an arcade, where one is frustrated by the mom's inability to send her to ballet lessons, and the other running away from a dad who made sexual advances in a drunken stupor.
From then on the story focused on the serendipituous manner in which the parents come together to look for their children, who spend their days in play at the house of their grandparents. Nothing much happens as the narrative stepped aside for aesthetics to take over, where every shot is nicely framed, and brings a sense of peace and quiet to two girls who find solace in each other's company from their respective topsy-turvy lives, with Minako inevitably serving as the surrogate mother to Yu.
Written and directed by Yusuke Kinoshita, when compared to the films in this year's lineup so far, this is probably the quietest of them all, especially when contrasted against the black and white classics which each had an agenda to push through to the masses. Water Flower is paced leisurely, and personally I still felt it had pulled its punches at the finale, where it opted to be open ended when there was no real need to. Still, it was probably the only way to end the film without condemning one of the protagonist as irresponsible and reckless in thw way things get developed.