I got to watch this movie on a plane during a trip. How did it fare with Japan’s leading actresses? It relates the lives of six women whose lives span a period of three generations, from the Show period to now. It looks into the relationships between mother and daughter, father and mother, father and daughter, husband and wife, sister and sister, mother and child.
Story/Introduction on characters
It begins with Rin(Yu Aoi) in 1930 worrying about her coming marriage set by her parents. She doesn’t wish to marry a stranger that she has never met before and runs away on the eve, refusing to bow to fate. After knowing that her own mother is blissfully married to have her and two younger siblings, she returns. Her father shows emotions of being reluctant to get her married but greets the guests. Rin’s husband turns to be a fine man.
Eventually Rin has three daughters: Kaoru (Yuko Takeuchi), Midori (Rena Tanaka) and youngest child Sato (Yukie Nakama). This is 1955 and Rin has passed away for 20 years. Her daughters have now grown up, leading different lives while her husband is involved in writing exotic stories.
Kaoru is deeply in love with her professor husband. She tragically loses her husband in a car accident. She can’t accept the fact and goes on a journey. She revisits the place where they had their honeymoon and keeps recalling their happy times together. She simply can’t erase him from her memory.
Midori is a career woman who works in a publishing film. She works in a total male environment but is determined not to let them look down on her. She pretends to be tough and this gives her employer lots of headache. She befriends a writer and he proposes to her. However, she doesn’t wish to get trapped to be a housewife. It takes her a lot of time to change her mind to get hitched.
In the 1960's Sato gives birth to Kanna (Kyoka Suzuki) and Kei (Ryoko Hirosue). Kei has a tough pregnancy after Kanna’s birth. The doctor has warned her that it might cost her life. However, she is determined to have Kei born and has no regrets. In the end, Sato dies. Kanna is then like a mother to Kei to bring her up with her father.
It is now 2009. Kanna is a pianist but her talents are limited. Her boyfriend finds her old and ditches her. She is now pregnant and worries about becoming a single mother. She has to give up her piano dream. She can’t discard her smoking habit and Kei is concerned. Kei is happily married with a son. The sisters are paying respects to Sato on her death anniversary. Kei advises Kanna to keep the baby.
Kei is cheerful although she is considered a jinx by many for causing Sato’s death. Soon, Kanna is found to have complications in her pregnancy for her daughter’s birth as she is in her late 30s. Kei finds a letter written by Sato to them and hurries to the hospital with it. Sato has told them to treasure life.
Planning for "FLOWERS" began in 2008. All six of the main actresses previously starred in Shiseido's popular Tsubaki commercials. Filming took place between April and September, 2009. Filming locations include places all over Japan.
Their clothes and hairstyles were carefully done and designed to depict the periods. The male director looked into every single detail and provided lots of information to the actresses. He was strict with their gestures and the way they spoke. Kyoka Suzuki had to learn how to smoke repeatedly as she was a non-smoker. Ryoko Hirosue was the only one who did not have to read the historical facts and she did not need to act as she got along well with the child actor.
The lives of these woman are portrayed with beauty and grace. However, I have underestimated on how slow it is when watching it. Thus, I can’t help yawning at times. How can their lives be sealed like this? Japan is still a conservative country till this day. I still feel that a male actor fails to bring out the difficulties faced by a woman. It is more like a shampoo commercial as we hardly see how the actresses get messy hair when they are stuck in a tough situation.
It is a melodramatic movie of the 6 women over 3 generations in a family. No doubt, the actresses are of the leading category. But it is too predictable on childbirth and widows. Even though one of them runs into male chauvinistic working environment, she settles down as a traditional wife which I believe the modern women do not wish to see it ends like this. And they seem resigned to their fates calmly! They are still tied down by their families and husbands.
Moreover, I hate flashbacks – it can be so confusing switching to the past and present continuously. You will feel a bit lost even though the colour quality is different – from black and white to the present. Women seem only to show their importance at home.
I will recommend another 2004 China movie of a similar storyline, Jasmine women. The movie is an adaption of Su Tong’s novel 妇女生活 which means Women's Lives. It is by Chen Chong and Zhang Zi Yi is stronger in depth. It is based on an author’s book. The male leads of Liu Ye, Lu Yi and Jiang Wen also adds glamour to it.
Bu Bu Jing Xinstarring Cecilia Liu Shi Shi, Kevin Cheng, Nicky Wu, Yuan Hong
The New Adventure Of Chor Lau Heung (DVD, English subs)starring Miu Kiu Wai, Barbara Yung