Film review: Hana’s Miso Soup – Japanese woman defies cancer in bittersweet family drama
Based on the real-life blog of a terminally ill mother, this is a touching account of her life which ultimately serves as a positive story about the miracle of each day
Even if you, like me, are allergic to the manipulative tactics of tear-jerking cancer dramas, there’s still a lot to savour in writer-director Tomoaki Akune’s Hana’s Miso Soup, which announces the protagonist’s doom early and then follows her on for the rest of her likely transient, yet undeniably vivid, experience with marriage and motherhood. Patrons of the sniffle are in for more than they usually bargain for.
Based on a collection of essays by real-life cancer patient Chie Yasutake, who died in 2008, the valiant woman is played by Ryoko Hirosue in a serene and moving performance. Not long after the 23-year-old Chie meets the love of her life, Shingo (Kenichi Takito), an outrageously goofy newspaper journalist who is a divorcee and 11 years her senior, she is diagnosed with breast cancer. The two get married anyway.
Then they’re met with another surprise: Chie, fresh off chemotherapy, is pregnant against all odds. This brings joy to Shingo and dismay to Chie, who fears that carrying the child will bring back the tumours. It’s no spoiler to note that she’ll give birth to a daughter, Hana (Emina Akamatsu). The film doesn’t so much deal with surprises as it gives a bittersweet account of Chie’s life, of which every day is a miracle.
The story maintains its positive outlook as it alternates between Chie’s cancer treatment and her healthy home life, which she advocates on a popular online blog. Hana’s Miso Soup is a tender portrait of family love that’s largely devoid of histrionics. At any rate, there could be nothing more poignant than the sight of Chie teaching Hana the recipe for making traditional miso soup – and a good life on her own.
Hana’s Miso Soup opens on May 5
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