Every Day A Good Day (2018) ☆☆(2/4): Life with tea ceremony lesson

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I am too jaded and blunt for Japanese film “Every Day A Good Day”, which bored me a lot as droning on life and tea ceremony for its 100-minute running time. While there is nothing particularly awful about the film itself and I observed its cultural subject with some curiosity from time to time, I also felt quite impatient with its tedious narrative pacing and shallow storytelling, and I was very dissatisfied as the movie fizzles in the end despite a few dramatic moments during its second half.

The heroine of the movie is a young female college student named Noriko (Haru Kuroki). When her mother suggests that she should attend the traditional tea ceremony class of an old lady named Takeda (Kirin Kiki), Noriko is rather reluctant at first, but she eventually goes to Takeda’s house along with her cousin Michiko (Mikako Tabe), who has been her best friend since she came to live with Noriko’s family after leaving her rural hometown for her college education. Although she understandably feels awkward at first, Noriko gradually gets accustomed to those numerous etiquettes and tools required for making and serving a cup of traditional tea, and the class time at Takeda’s house soon becomes one of main routines in her daily life.

Slowly moving from one episodic moment to another, the movie gives us several nice scenes showing how to make and serve a cup of traditional tea properly. Under Takeda’s fastidious but gentle guidance, Noriko, Michiko, and other students attending Takeda’s class should be very careful and courteous in their every move in addition to concentrating a lot on brewing up traditional tea, and we get a few small laughs as some of them happen to make a mistake in the middle of their demonstration. When they and others go to a temple at one point for holding a special tea ceremony there, many of them are not so eager to be the host of the ceremony because of the possibility of embarrassment, and it accordingly takes some time for them to decide who will be the host.

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As seasons come and go, many small and big things happen in Noriko’s life. After graduating from the college along with Michiko, she hopes that she will have a career in publishing industry, but it looks like her dream is beyond her reach as her career goes nowhere during next several years, and she still lives with her parents. In case of Michiko, she is quite content with her job in some trade company, but then she decides to get married several years later, and she subsequently comes to live the life of your average housewife.

In the meantime, Noriko continues to attend Takeda’s class. As more students come to Takeda’s class, she finds herself becoming an experienced senior to other students, and that surely reminds her of how much she has learned and changed since her first day at Takeda’s lesson. She often wonders why she has kept sticking to learning tradition tea ceremony for many years, but, of course, there eventually comes a moment of epiphany when she is making a cup of traditional tea in front of others as usual.

That significant moment could be touching if the screenplay by director Tatsushi Omori, which was developed from the essay of the same name by Noriko Morishita, brought more life and personality to its story and characters. While thoroughly decent and courteous, Noriko and many other characters in the film are not particularly engaging enough to hold our attention, and we never fully get the sense of change inside Noriko even though the movie blatantly spells out her thoughts and feelings via her frequent narration. In addition, many episodic moments in the film are more or less than mere narrative points to signify the passage of time, and they do not get meshed well together to generate any synergistic effect in terms of storytelling.

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While I got bored more and more during the screening I attended this afternoon, I observed how its two lead actresses try to elevate the movie as much as they can. Haru Kuroki, who recently provided a voice performance to Mamoru Hosoda’s animation film “Mirai” (2018), is calm and graceful as required in her low-key performance, and she fluidly moves from one emotional situation to another even while the movie suffers from its rickety narrative. I must confess that I did not notice this talented Japanese actress before (I later learned that she won the Silver Bear award for Best Actress at the Berlin International Film Festival for her performance in Yoji Yamada’s “The Little House” (2014)), and I can only hope that she will soon move onto better things to come.

On the opposite, Kirin Kiki is as solid as we can expect from her. The movie is one of the last films made before her death in last year, and she did a good job of imbuing her character with warmth and wisdom. Although she was much better in Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Shoplifters” (2018), Kiki’s performance in the movie is still fun to watch nonetheless, and I will not deny that I came to miss her more after watching the movie.

“Every Day A Good Day” is not entirely without appeal, but it is too mild and tepid for me. I certainly appreciated the considerable efforts from Kuroki and Kiki, and I also enjoyed its various seasonal moods to some degree, but I kept noticing its many weak aspects while occasionally checking the time. That is not a good sign, you know.

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