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September 13, 2010 | by  | in Film |
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Kamome Diner

Kamome Diner
Director: Naoko Ogigami

Every so often you’ll come across a film that doesn’t particularly strike you as great. There’s nothing about it that screams “look at me, I’m an important film that you should praise”—it’s a film that couldn’t care less for that sort of brash posturing. It’s a film that’s content to just sit back and do its thing, and, in doing so, sort of sneaks up on you with how good it actually is. On a cold winter Wednesday at the Film Archive, I stumbled upon a film like that in Kamome Diner, a slight, feel-good comedy about three Japanese women who run a diner in a side-street in Helsinki. Kamome Diner is the kind of film that isn’t particularly accomplished, nor is it particularly arresting; but it is one spent in the company of endearing characters, filled with on-the-mark humour, sparse yet beautiful images of Helsinki, and lots and lots of delicious-looking food.

Kobayashi Satomi plays Sachie, the owner of the diner and a stranger in a land she can’t really be bothered getting to know in great detail. She only has one customer—dorky Japanophile Tommi—and until she meets the rough, perpetually-bewildered Midori (Katagiri Hairi), she doesn’t really know anyone in the city. She’s content to breeze through life, enhancing the lives of the people she collides with, but never really going out of her way to do anything. But when she takes on Midori as her roommate and employee at the diner she begins experimenting, and more and more people are drawn to the diner—people with problems, but people nonetheless. Sachie is soon joined behind the counter by another lost Japanese soul, Masako (Motai Masako), a quiet and reserved woman whose piercing eyes and tight facial expressions both unnerve and intrigue.

Kobayashi, Katagiri and Motai are all excellent actresses, and their performances here are finely tuned; they inhabit their characters like a second skin and nail the light-hearted, conversational comedy. Kobayashi, in particular, is wonderful; her warmth and knack for light humour preventing her character from tipping into unbearable perfect-protagonist territory. Comic situations are thrown at them frequently by the locals, and the slightly oddball humour complements the film’s breezy feel and natural flow (a man cradling a cat with a leash and a drunken Finnish woman provide a good chunk of the laughs). Kamome Diner is an understated delight, and a pleasant way to spend one-hundred minutes.

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