There’s a gentle message about tolerance wrapped inside Sweet Bean (An), a touching Japanese movie revolving around a small pancake café in suburban Tokyo. Sentaro (Masatoshi Nagase), the café’s sad middle-aged manager reluctantly hires eager 76-year-old woman Tokue (Kirin Kiki) to be his assistant. Surprisingly, her recipe for red bean paste, the filling for dorayaki pancakes, proves an immediate hit with customers, including misfit teenager Wakana (Kyara Uchida). But things change when rumours about her begin to spread. Director Naomi Kawase deftly handles her themes of loneliness, social stigma and the joy of finding a purpose in life, and her story’s resolution is bittersweet but uplifting.
Certificate PG. Runtime 113 mins. Director Naomi Kawase
Sweet Bean is available on Digital and on Dual Format (Blu-ray & Digital) in the Masters of Cinema series from Eureka Entertainment.
A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.
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