A Family Affair, by the Japanese filmmaker and writer Hirokazu Kore-eda , was, along with Roma, the non-English-language film that received the most awards and distinctions last year, 2018. Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, Donostia Award in that of San Sebastian, Cesar Award for best foreign film or its nominations for the Oscars and the Golden Globes attest to this wide and select international recognition. A film that a large part of the specialized critics did not hesitate to describe as the most personal, representative and captivating work of this Japanese creator.
A family affair starts from an unexpected situation: Osamu, accompanied by his son Shota, on his way home after perpetrating the weekly robbery in the supermarket, they find a little girl, alone and terrifying with cold. Despite the initial rejection of Osamu’s wife, she is sheltered in her home and in a very short time, just a few days later, she is already a member of the family. This novel and apparent normality is broken by an event that strikes directly at the foundations of the family, its unit, as well as its members, who are left at the mercy of adverse circumstances.
Kore-eda unravels a main idea from the outset: the family can be built or defined in many different waysand its composition is not linked exclusively to blood or couple ties. And for this reason, it does not cease to be a family to use, understood as a homeland, as a shell and even as a border, as it is a perfectly delimited affective space .
A Family Affair is, likewise, a portrait and story about poverty, which it approaches and shows not as a common entity, not as a label that defines and classifies all those it encompasses in a concrete way, but rather that it is variable and fickle in as to its extension and meaning. chronic povertyof the social services, of the suburban neighborhoods that concentrate the sad and gray buildings of official protection; poverty so essential and pure that it ignores the opulence, luxury and comfort of other social classes.
At times, the poverty that Kore-eda exhibits in his novel can become very familiar to us, since in our country we have also witnessed, as a consequence of a very long economic crisis, the formation of a new social/labour status made up of “workers poor”. In other words, employment, as it happened in the past, is no longer a sufficient guarantee to escape vulnerability or marginality. Kore-eda approaches this phenomenon, equally valid in his country, from an everyday realism, without falling into false sentimentality or unnecessary kindness.with the facts and characters it shows. As if he were a Japanese version of John Cheever, Kore-eda paints a very accurate, trustworthy portrait of the precariousness of this family, which can be understood as prototypical in many ways, despite its peculiarities.
Like a Japanese version of Cheever, Kore-eda accurately portrays precariousness
Another element of A Family Affair with which we Spanish readers can connect is found in the role played by the grandmother. I sing to intergenerational relationships, which are so close to us to a greater or lesser extent, and also, once again taking up the prevailing precariousness, as an economic support for the family. A reality amplified in recent years.
Kore-eda, both in his filmography and in this novel, is characterized by placing his characters on the edge of the abyss, always exposed to circumstances that often work against him. And it is at that point where this Japanese author surprises us the most, either because of the response offered by his characters, or because of the brilliant dissection he makes of their behavior.
In his previous filmography, Kore-eda demonstrates on more than one occasion his facility or fondness for the dark, for the disturbing, but always starting from the everyday.This belief in a world that harbors within it the “good” and the “bad” at the same time and in the same space is very present in A Family Affair. Hence, his characters can alternate cruelty or kindness, in their routines or in their first reactions.
Kore-eda skillfully navigates the border between genres, using them or resorting to them as required by the narrative at any given time. And so, he goes from black to social chronicle, from realism to costumbrismo, or from psychological analysis to paradox, through a story that appears simple, but has sufficient sources of information, through details that are not particularly striking at first. or apparently simple comments, which manage to weave and weave a plot that is defined at the same time that we advance in its reading.
Kore-eda achieves the construction of a whole from small fragments thanks to a harmonious sense of narrativity, as natural as it is precise and premeditated. That thread to pull, to which Munoz Molina often refersin his allusions to the literary fact, and that in the case of this Japanese author is latent in his cinematographic work, but also in his literary work, as we can see in A Family Affair.
With a translation by Rumi Sato , Nocturna Ediciones has published in our language the novel of the same title, on which he relied to film his well-known film, the first to come to us from those edited by Kore-eda in her country. I have no doubt that in the coming months we will hear of new translations by this author, who in his literature maintains that complicated pulse between the everyday, the disturbing, the real and the possible.

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