Director Doris Dörrie is something of a Nihonophile based on Cherry Blossoms' love of the land of the rising sun and its cinema.
Taking healthy pinches of Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story and Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru, Dorrie’s script is a bittersweet story of a Trudi (Elsner), a hausfrau seeking to bring her family together one more time before her husband succumbs to a terminal condition.
Trouble is her favourite son Karl (Brückner) lives in Japan, and her son and daughter in Berlin regard the get-together as a tut-out-loud chore, as does hubby Rudi (Wepper).
Dörrie spends a good forty minutes getting to know Trudi, a closet firebrand who reined in her dreams for the sake of her dull husband, and scores high with the intimate family drama.
But, it is with Trudi’s sudden exit that Cherry Blossoms shifts gear and becomes a poignant story of grief and acceptance in the About Schmidt vein.
As Rudi realises his children in Berlin have as little time for him as he had for them in the past, he travels East for the pilgrimage he unwittingly denied his Japan-loving wife.
There Rudi discovers Karl is not the golden boy his mother held him to be, and forms a touching relationship with young butoh dancer Yuu (Irizumi), who performs in a Tokyo park and is something of a kindred spirit for the old man.
Cherry blossoms are a metaphor for life’s ephemeral beauty and Dörrie makes sure we know the parallels to her story, while the magical realism comes thick and fast in the Mt. Fuji climax.
But, she earns these wistful moments through earlier scenes of Rudi bottoming out in Tokyo’s red light districts, falling into strip joints and massage parlours as grief grabs hold of him.
A big hit in its native Germany, this bouquet of nicely observed private moments packs an unexpectedly profound emotional punch.