12 September 2016



This marvellous film, which had its prestigious debut at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, is the story of three random Japanese people who come together and form a sort of little surrogate family because each of them has a strong feeling of isolation and loneliness in common.

Sentaro is a middle-aged cook who runs a tiny restaurant-slash-takeaway that's more like a kiosk, having seating for only about three people. He only sells one kind of food. It's called dorayaki, a kind of fried pancake filled with sweet red bean paste. I'm reliably informed that the Japanese simply adore their paste and they slather it on everything, haha.

I'm very attracted to Sentaro. He's just my type. Tall, dark, brooding, stubbly, lonely, chain-smoker, clearly has personal problems which only the love of a good woman (possibly myself...?) can solve. I'm a sucker for that kind of troubled guy. I always think I can save 'em, haha.

Sentaro's obviously not happy in his life and work, hardly surprising since he's not even working for himself. He's only managing the kiosk for someone else, a married couple to whom he owes a mysterious debt. Mmmm, someone's clearly got a secret past...! Can't wait to find out what it is.

Wakana is a secondary school student of about fifteen or sixteen. She's a bit of a loner, this one. Her single mum likes the booze and the ciggies and the men and Wakana's only real company, apart from when she hangs out at the dorayaki shop, is a gorgeous little bright yellow canary called Marvy. Sentaro gives Wakana the edible 'rejects' from the shop and that's about all there is to her life.

Into both of their lives comes Tokue Yoshii, an elderly arthritic lady of seventy-six who asks Sentaro if she can have the advertised job at the shop. Sentaro refuses at first on account of the old girl's advanced years and obvious frailty. But when he tastes her home-made bean paste, which tastes a million times better than his processed shop-bought stuff, he changes his mind.

Tokue is an extraordinary old gal. She seems to revel in the glory of nature and every living thing. She talks to the beans while she's waiting for them to cook so that she can 'hear their stories.'

'Listen to the story of their journey,' she urges the man she now calls 'Boss.' 'I always listen to the stories the beans tell. Everything in this world has a story to tell. Making beans is all about heart, sonny.'

Sentaro, who probably hasn't admired a cherry blossom tree or a falling leaf in God-knows-how-long, let alone listened to what the beans are trying to tell him, is a little bemused by her. Everything makes her happy. You know there aren't too many people like that around nowadays, who don't have cellphones and who don't need technology to make 'em happy.

She takes real pleasure in getting up at the crack of dawn to painstakingly and laboriously prepare the beans by hand with Sentaro's help. He does the heavy pot-lifting. Tokue does the important stuff like chatting to the beans while inhaling their glorious fragrance and stuff, stuff like that...!

Anyway, business is booming at the dorayaki shop because of Tokue's wildly sussessful bean paste pancakes. People are queuing outside the shop for dorayaki. Then suddenly business begins to fall off, until one day it disappears altogether. What's gone wrong?

Well, it appears that one of our little threesome has a secret that's not exactly a secret, if you know what I mean, and the public's gotten wind of it and now they're steering clear of the little shop. It's such a sad and almost unbelievable secret.

It literally had me running to Google straight afterwards to find out if such a thing still happens in the twenty-first century. When I found out that it's still very much a thing in certain parts of the world, I was unbearably sad for the rest of the day. 

The whole film, which has a woman's hand all over it directing-wise, is just so incredibly emotional anyway. The friend with whom I watched it described it rather aptly as 'taking a ride on the feels train,' which I thought summed the experience up perfectly.

Mind you, this friend has something of a wickedly inappropriate sense of humour too. When I went to start dinner after watching the film, she kept yelling at me:

'Old Lady from SWEET BEAN licked all your forks...!' which was somewhat less sympathetic and sweet, haha.

Find out what happened to Tokue's lovely blouse that her mother made her years ago, by the way, and I bet you anything you like you won't be able to keep from crying. Same goes for you, ladies...!

Anyway, I'm really annoyed with myself for having missed this beautifully-shot film when it came to the cinema in August this year. It would have been so nice to see those magnificent cherry blossom trees on the big screen!

If you missed the cinema release of SWEET BEAN yourself, it's out now on home release courtesy of EUREKA ENTERTAINMENT LTD. It's a slow-burner of a film that'll hit you right in the feels, haha. Enjoy it and always remember Old Lady From SWEET BEAN's advice:

'Each one of us has meaning in our lives.'

Well said, Old Lady From SWEET BEAN. Well said.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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  1. Loved this little movie, funny, but also heartbreaking film, thanks again Sandra for a fantastic review

  2. I loved this feel good movie. Great review Sandra