Movie rides on actress' cuteness

Movie rides on actress' cuteness


Review: Drama

Rating: 3/5

Duration: 109 minutes

The story: At the age of seven, young Oshin (Kokone Hamada) is sent off by her impoverished farming family to another town to work as a babysitter and live-in servant. Over one particularly harsh winter, she makes some friends but also gets bullied. But no matter what happens, she bravely soldiers on.

Whenever a beloved old work gets a remake, comparisons with the original will be inevitable.

This being the movie adapdation of the massively successful 1983 Japanese TV drama of the same name, viewers will be eager to see how the story about this famously resolute little girl translates to the big screen.

Fortunately for director Shin Togashi, that battle is half won with the perfect casting of new face Kokone Hamada in the title role.

The chubby-cheeked nine-year-old is so adorable, her mere presence lights up every scene. There is also an innocent child-like wonder and a sincere quality to her that makes her all the more likeable.

The first-time child actress is not always the most natural performer. In some scenes, she spouts lines so stiffly that it is as if she were reading aloud a textbook passage in language class.

But when the time comes for the gut-wrenching emotional scenes, she nails every one. In the scene where she leaves home for the very first time, her incessant cries for her parents will get your tears flowing.

Togashi told Life! in an interview that he often worked with the old TV script, hoping to keep the essence of the Oshin story alive for his movie.

But his insistence on giving fans what they want and remaining faithful to the original also drags the movie down.

Rather than appearing as one coherent work, his adaptation often feels like several TV episodes loosely strung together.

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