Naomi Kawase’s “Sweet Bean” (An) is an understated drama of community and friendship (and flavorful red bean paste served between pancakes) that quickly takes a historical swerve. At the modest neighborhood bakery stand where Sentaro (Masatoshi Nagase) sells these dorayakis, an odd seventy-six-year-old woman, Tokue (Kirin Kiki) offers to help him, for the most modest of wages, make his sweet pastry a true delicacy. When Sentaro’s extended family and debtors find out about her past, however, things take a quick turn for the bleak. There’s lyric mournfulness in the unsentimental telling by Kawase (“The Mourning Forest,” “Still the Water”), touching, yet empathetic in its ache, hurt and heart. 113m. (Ray Pride)
“Sweet Bean” opens Friday, April 8 at Siskel. The trailer is below.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.