My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999) – [subtitled]

Neighbors is comprised of many vignettes, individual comic strips if you will, reflections on various aspects of life’s meanings and the ups-and-downs of being part of a Japanese family in the late 90s. Many of these are mundane, uninteresting, and humorless. The rare ones that are not are great in comparison. The numerous, unending vignettes do well to paint a picture and bring to life the characters in this family.

The film actually begins beautifully in a fantastic metaphoric visualization of the journey of marriage and starting a family. That part of the film is worth seeking out, if nothing else. Near the end we get a glimpse of the father’s feelings of inadequacy and ineffectiveness after an amazing chase scene. I found this to be the most powerful part of the film and wish there was more of it.

In some ways it’s difficult to believe this director gave us the deeply moving Grave of the Fireflies. However, Neighbors in many ways is a deeply sad film as well, the family walks that thin line of loving one another and not really being that interested in each other. The film ends with the message: Acceptance is the only way out of totally unacceptable situations. I wholeheartedly disagree.

Acceptance of what life throws at you, acceptance of the little irritations in life, acceptance of the consequences of your actions. Even acceptance of the monotony of life. Since many things are out of our control, it’s a good idea to accept reality. To a point. I wish the film had given us an example of something we should **not **accept. Something we can change, something worth fighting for.

There is some nuggets of wisdom sprinkled throughout Neighbors, and the animation is simplistically elegant with a few artistic gems. It just didn’t move me, I found myself waiting for it to be over . This was strange and off-putting for a Ghibli film.