Warning: May contain spoilers
The 2016 Japanese film “What a Wonderful Family!” was recently showcased at the 20th Eigasai Film Festival. The comedy/drama feature by veteran director Yoji Yamada tells the story of a family plunged into chaos after the wife asks for a divorce from her husband of 50 years, and how the personal grievances of their adult children came out in the open as they try to prevent the separation from happening.
Despite the seriousness of the situation, the film is able to find humor in the relationships between the family members. The three adult children react in different ways to the shocking news. The eldest son, like his father, remains in utter disbelief and denial. Their daughter hires a ridiculously inept private investigator because she is convinced their elderly father is having an affair with the hostess of his favorite bar. And the youngest, emotionally-drained by the various hang-ups of their family, decides to get married to escape it all.
Surely all of us have faced family conflicts similar to, if not exactly the same, as the one in the story. Here are five other things every Pinoy will be able to relate to in “What a Wonderful Family!”
1. Extended families living under one roof
In the film, preoccupied businessman Koichi (Masahiko Nishimura) lives with his wife Fumiko (Yui Natsukawa), their two children, and his elderly parents Shuzo (Isao Hashizume) and Tomiko (Kazuko Yoshiyuki). Filipinos are no strangers to living with relatives other than their immediate families. It’s very common for adults to take in or live with their parents even after they get married. Whether it’s for economic or emotional reasons, a lot of us grew up in homes where our lolos and lolas spoil us behind our strict parents’ back.
2. Grievances that suddenly erupt after being kept for long
When it comes to family matters, we Filipinos are seldom confrontational folk. We try to keep our grievances to ourselves as much as we can to avoid upsetting relatives. Who’d want to live with strained family relationships, anyway? But all these bottled up feelings will eventually come out. In the film, everyone tried to save the family when Tomiko asked her husband for a divorce after 50 years of marriage. Instead, the impending separation caused everyone to reach their breaking point and for all their personal grievances to finally be voiced out.
3. The controlling father figure
In the film, Tomiko asks for a divorce after finally being fed up with her husband’s selfish ways. Shuzo is an obstinate old man who spends his retirement drinking and playing golf. He is accustomed to getting his way and often shows disregard for others’ feelings. Some Filipinos will surely recognize in Shuzo some characteristics of their own father figures, especially those who never let their authority be questioned or who needed to always be the decision maker for the entire family.
4. The “Why aren’t you married yet?” conversation
If you’re around 25 or older and still single, you’ve heard this question a lot (more so if you’re a woman) from “concerned” relatives. It doesn’t matter what the occasion is — a birthday party for one of your young nephews and nieces, someone else’s wedding, even at the wake of a dearly departed — some distant aunt is sure to ask you “Why aren’t you married yet?” In the film, the youngest son of Shuzo and Tomiko, a 30-year old pianist, is repeatedly asked about this, too. In the end he finally does get married, and he sees it as a way to escape his family.
5. Family above all
Despite all the conflict and drama, family is still important. These are the people who raised you and watched you grow; at some point you realize that the bond you have with them is stronger than your differences. We Filipinos value our family above all, and “What a Wonderful Family!” shows this relatable truth in the most heartwarming way.