Film review: Close-Knit – Japanese LGBT family drama takes heart-warming look at discrimination and ignorance

A transgender woman takes on a maternal role when schoolgirl Tomo’s biological mother abandons her in Naoko Ogigami’s moving film about tolerance and acceptance in Japan

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 October, 2017, 6:18pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 October, 2017, 7:18pm

3.5/5 stars

This open-minded and open-hearted Japanese film shows what happens when an 11-year-old girl moves in with her uncle and his transgender partner. It’s a delicate, heart-warming film which touches on serious topics like discrimination and ignorance, without finding the need to raise the stakes with unnecessary scenes of conflict.

The film starts with schoolgirl Tomo’s (Rin Kakihara) unreliable mother abandoning her to spend time with a new boyfriend. Tomo is taken in by her kind uncle, Maiko (Kenta Kiritani), and his transgender girlfriend Rinko (Toma Ikuta). Tomo quickly takes to Rinko, who cooks her food in the shape of animals, and treats her like the child she could never have.

The family faces discrimination from the mother of one of Tomo’s school friends and the authorities, but Rinko has learned to channel her anger into knitting. The return of Tomo’s biological mother threatens the family’s new-found happiness.

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Ikuta ( The Top Secret: Murder in Mind ) is convincing as a man who has become a woman, and displays a quiet strength and confidence as his character finds her way through adoptive motherhood. Kakihara, as the young niece, acts with a maturity beyond her years, managing to express herself with looks and actions rather than words, as seen in her heartbreaking final scene with her birth mother.

Writer-director Naoko Ogigami got the idea for the film when she became interested in LGBT issues during her stay in America. Close-Knit’s gentle nature moves the film into the mainstream, and it should appeal to viewers inside and outside the LGBT community.

Close-Knit opens on October 26

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