Yuki Tanada is a breath of fresh air in the staid world of Japanese film directors. While she can no longer be called a “young” artist (she’s 41), her style exhibits a fresh energy and novel approach that is lacking in other Japanese auteurs. In addition, she’s one of few women filmmakers in Japan and as such is much more sensitive to the plight of her female characters. Tanada won the prestigious student PIA prize in 2001 and went on to win the Directors Guild of Japan New Directors Award in 2008 for Million Yen Girl. Her films are often humorous, with a realistic edge. In this they are precisely what most of her contemporaries—who go for either straight melodrama or over-the-top comedy—can’t do. Tanada’s current piece sets the scene with twentysomething Aya (Juri Ueno) living with her much older ne’er-do-well lover Ito (Lily Franky). Suddenly Aya’s father (Tatsuya Fuji) comes to live in their small apartment, and he has a litany of complaints about them, starting with the fact that neither of them have anything approaching an upwardly-mobile job. Both funny and searing, the film addresses issues of family and the plight of Japan’s aging, unwanted generation. Like many great films it elicits laughter, grimaces, and tears. A gem.

(Japanese title: Otousan to Itou-san; 119 min.)