My Uncle (Boku no ojisan) (2016)


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I was completely charmed by this family comedy at the Japanese Film Festival. Yukio (Riku Ohnishi) must write an essay for a school contest about an adult in his family. His parents are too unexceptional so he chooses his infantile loafer of an uncle (Ryûhei Matsuda).

His uncle is a philosophy teacher who only teaches one 90 minute class a week. For the rest of the time he sleeps in, thinks deeply, avoids work or responsibility and then relaxes from his exertions by reading comics. Amiable and wily, he sees no problem with being supported by Yukio’s family and is always on the verge of some great philosophy of thought.

Nothing motivates him to change his ways until he meets Ellie ((Yôko Maki), a Japanese-born Hawaiian artist who runs a family coffee farm on Hawaii Island. Smitten, Yukio’s uncle sets his sights on travelling to Hawaii, with cute Yukio in tow as a faithful sidekick and charmer of adult women.

Played in a comical and exaggerated way, the amiability of the characters makes it a heartwarming tale. Ohnishi as Yukio holds his own throughout, no mean feat for a 10-year-old. Uncle would be pretty loathsome if you wasn’t so charming; deeply narcissistic, he is motivated only by his own immediate needs and seems to only do good by accident.

Ellie isn’t given much of a shot. She is an object of desire and has a bit of a story that really exists to highlight Uncle’s shallowness. There is a genuine moment of emotion though when she takes Uncle and Yukio to look over Pearl Harbor. A rare moment of quiet in the bright comedy of the story, it pulls together 70 years of American-Japanese history into a single scene.

Ultimately the story took me nowhere unexpected but I was charmed every moment. And I now have a hankering to stay in a particular pink hotel in Hawaii.

Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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