From the scent of freshly cooked pancakes, to a gentle breeze rustling through vivid pink cherry blossom, Naomi Kawase’s latest Cannes offering An is a sentimental and saccharine affair.
An focuses on timid old lay, Tokue (Kirin Kiki), who arrives on the doorstep of Sentaro’s (Masatoshi Nagase) quaint dorayaki (Japanese crepes filled with sweet red bean paste called an) shop looking for work. Sentaro is a melancholy soul who dislikes his job, so when Tokue offers up her knowledge for cooking delicious an, an odd partnership begins to blossom. Joining their cooking revolution is Wakana (Kyara Uchida), a kind but shy teenager who befriends both of the mismatched pancake chefs.
The story doesn’t really go anywhere that you wouldn’t expect as the three generations all impart wisdom and teachings on one another; Tokue is given a new lease of life in the arduous kitchen work, while Sentaro soon warms to the frail old woman, and his solitary existence behind the counter is just that little bit brighter as a result. But in opening up themselves to one another, the duo reveal old wounds that threaten to tear their newly forged friendship apart.
The pacing throughout the first half is frustratingly slow, but Kawase uses this quiet, meditative section of the film to effectively illustrate the isolation that her characters feel. The film might appear simple on the surface, but much like the delicious doriyaki that Sentaro serves up, there is a sugary and comforting core inside waiting to ooze out. The third act is guaranteed to give those tear ducts a workout.
Kiki establishes herself as the emotional anchor and standout performance fairly early in the film; she brings a mixture of humble wisdom and subtle mischief to proceedings, like a frail Japanese Master Yoda.
The Verdict: 7/10
Sweet and sugary almost to a fault, An exudes warm comfort and gooeyness, but its after taste is fleeting.
An is in cinemas across Australia from April 28