The Yokoyama family gather in order to commemorate the death of the eldest son fifteen years ago. Coming together in the home of the parents (the grumpy, curmudgeon and proud father and the more natural, amusing but acidic mother) the children (the son who has married a widow with a young son and the daughter who has arrived with her two children and car salesman husband) find themselves dealing with the difficult nature of their father, the cutting asides of their mother and the presence of their dead brother.
The interactions between them all, usually accompanied by the presence of food, brings each character to life and the performances of all the actors are fabulous. Had this been billed as a fly-on-the-wall documentary you would have remained convinced after watching so convincing are the performances and the story.
Like so many Ozu films the clash between the values of the elderly parents and their Westernised children is a strong element of this film and Koreeda has clearly been influenced by the master director although his film is brisker and lighter than those of Ozu. What also struck me was the closeness of this film to "Departures" in that both deal with death and the impact of it upon those who are left behind. The Japanese sense of tradition and respect runs deep within much of their cinema and it manages to present a compelling case that the West could learn much from them.