Oh, Reel-y: Unconventional Families

Leonie
2010

Leonie is a fascinating biopic of Leonie Gilmour, the mother of Isamu Noguchi, a world-renowned Japanese-American sculptor and architect from the mid-1900s. An editor, English teacher in Japan, and single mother, Leonie led an incredible and unconventional life that challenged the social mores of her time. As the movie depicts her, she has a fierce passion and independent streak that she instills in her two children, both of whom would become successful artists.

The movie is assured, featuring gorgeous cinematography and strong performances from its cast. Emily Mortimer impresses in the lead role, and Shido Nakamura and Christina Hendricks turn in solid performances as her erstwhile husband and closest friend, respectively. It’s refreshing to see Emily Mortimer play an actual strong female character rather than Aaron Sorkin’s caricature of one on The Newsroom.

For anyone curious about Isamu Noguchi’s work, the Noguchi Museum is located in Long Island City, Queens.

***

A Gentle Rain Falls for Fukushima
2012

A meditation on various tragedies in Japan’s history, including the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster on March 11, 2011, A Gentle Rain Falls for Fukushima introduces several lonely people each searching for a semblance of family or human connection in the face of trauma. Ittoku is heavily in debt and contemplating suicide. Rin is a quiet young girl whose sense of the supernatural alienates her from her peers. Kento is a high schooler who had to evacuate during the nuclear power accident and is now struggling in his new school. Yuriko is an aging woman battling Alzheimer’s while reliving the tragic loss of her family during the bombings of World War II. The film brings these disparate characters together into a unique family in a strange story unlike any I’ve encountered in cinema. It’s weird, but it’s weird with heart.

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