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Anne Watanabe conducts a group of elderly musicians in a still from Golden Orchestra (category I, Japanese), directed by Toru Hosokawa.

Review | Film review: Golden Orchestra – Anne Watanabe leads an elderly music group in infectious comedy

The film follows a standard fish-out-of-water format, but the elderly cast of happy-go-lucky musicians will resonate with audiences, and the sincere storyline make this a winner

Film reviews

4/5 stars

Toru Hosokawa’s Golden Orchestra is that rare light, charming comedy that not only brings laughs, but will also resonate with audiences on a deeper, personal level. This is a testament to the dedication of the filmmaker and the entire cast, many of whom are senior citizens.

Based on the 2008 novel of the same name, the story revolves around a young schoolteacher, Chizuru (Anne Watanabe, daughter of actor Ken), whose lifelong dream of playing in an orchestra is reignited after attending a Umega High School concert.

Takashi Sasano in a still from Golden Orchestra.

Intending to sign up for that same orchestra the next day, she mistakenly joins a similarly named group consisting of elderly locals who are not exactly good musicians. When the senior conductor (Takashi Sasano) suffers a heart attack during Chizuru’s first session, she feels obliged to handle the baton for the foreseeable future.

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The film initially milks laughs from the fish-out-of-water scenario of a young woman being surrounded by people old enough to be her grandparents – that Chizuru is uptight while the seniors are all happy-go-lucky adds to the comedy.

A still from the film Golden Orchestra.

But much like Richard Linklater’s 2004 cult favourite School of Rock, the bandleader and the band eventually form a bond despite the obvious age and cultural differences. From musings about facing their mortality to helping Chizuru net a date with a dreamy colleague, the interactions should resonate with anyone who has or had good relationships with a grandparent.

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None of the plot developments in Golden Orchestra stray from the traditional inspirational filmbeats – the ultimate message here is “it’s never too late in your life to chase your dreams” – but the cast is so likeable, the story so sincere, it’s hard not to root for them.

Golden Orchestra opens on September 28

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