Every day is a Good Day
EVERY DAY A GOOD DAY (2018) by Tatsuri Omoroi
Everyone once in a while a very special movie appears that exceeds all expectations of what a movie can do. This one is an ostensibly simple tale of a young girl who takes up the traditional Japanese art of making tea. It shows how the careful discipline of preparing tea in a formal setting can impact a life over time. In fact it is a profound look at spiritual practice - in this case one with a clear if unstated relationship to Zen training.
Noriko (played by Haru Kuroki, best actress at Berlinale 2014) is about to graduate from Hhigh sSchool and is at a loose ends. She has lived until now an unremarkable Japanese middle class life in a small apartment with her mother and father (and sister/brother?). Neither marriage nor further education seems likely. Moreover, she has no idea what kind of life or work she is suitable for. Her father, a kind but taciturn patriarchal figure who spends much of his time reading at the kitchen table, asks her a few pointed questions over his newspaper about her plans. Noriko starts to agonize over her future. Everyone else in her class, it seems, has an idea of what they want to do except her. Then by chance she comes across a small advert offering lessons in the ancient art of the tea ceremony, and decides on a whim to give it a try. Her first encounter with the sensei or tea master, played by the late Japanese star Kirin Kiki, is a poignant and occasionally hilarious portrait of the nervous beginner who is so self-conscious that nothing goes right. Kiki’s performance as strict yet gentle teacher is unforgettable. To make matters worse, Noriko’s pretty school friend later joins the group and proves to be a prodigy of grace and precision. Noriko feels outclassed and downcast.
Nonetheless, Noriko perseveres and with time becomes more confident and proficient. Her private life is sketched out for us as well. We see her experience several painful setbacks. She doesn’t get the job she wanted; her boyfriendboy friend leaves her; there is increasing friction with her father. Then suddenly her father dies, and she goes into a spiral of grief and guilt. She briefly suspends her lessons and we see her sink into a state of total despair. At one point she howls into the wind. Eventually, she finds her way back to the teahouse. She takes up her regular place again. One day she notices a new girl, just as awkward and afraid as she was at the start of her practice. Feeling compassion for the newcomer, Noriko finds an occasion to give her a few tips. With this, her own heart opens and she discovers a renewed energy and even solace in her practice. The tea master notices the transformation and takes Noriko under her wing as a prospective teacher in her own right.
All the changes in this story are small, sometimes imperceptibly so, and fly in the face of classic film-making techniques which seek to squeeze the last ounce of emotion out of every drama as a matter of course. The result is an elegy to
everyday life, which has an almost magical ability to transport the viewer into the heart of a real spiritual experience . This film should still be available on Netflix. Find it!
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