Sweet Bean by Naomi Kawase
Source: New York Times
Sweet Bean: Sometimes Life is Not As Sweet As Red Bean Paste

Sweet Bean by Naomi Kawase invited us to see the meaning of life through Sentaro’s experience in making dorayaki. In the beginning, the movie was centered upon Sentaro (Masatoshi Nagase), a quiet man who seemed to live in his early thirty, who was an expert of making dorayaki. One day some student customers teased the taste of his red bean paste. It raised a doubt inside of him until he decided to open a part time vacancy to assist him in making dorayaki. Then, a fragile 76 year old woman with an odd look and crippled hands named Tokue (Kirin Kiki) interrupted and offered herself to do the part time work as advertised in front of the shop. It only made sense if Sentaro refused her offer, but then on her second visit, Tokue sent him some home-made chunky red bean paste to be tasted. Sentaro never tasted a red bean paste that good before, and after some consideration he finally let her work with him.

Sweet Bean by Naomi Kawase
Source: filmfestivals.com

Tokue and Sentaro started trying to make the delicious red bean paste together. The secret recipe was, apparently, she treated the red beans as if it is human. The scene of making the sweet red bean paste involved every detail of the process, started from picking the best red bean until the sweeten it up until it’s perfect. What makes this scene is beautiful and heartwarming was Tokue did the steps of making dorayaki with all of her heart. She said “bean paste is all feeling”, not only human, Tokue believed that red bean needs to be treated with delicate soul as well. She valued everything in life which was very in contrast with Sentaro’s cold personality, yet Sentaro learned a lot from Tokue and unconsciously connected with her in some way. However, Sentaro was not the only person who is enlightened by Tokue’s personality. Sentaro’s customer, a student who often ate dorayaki at the shop named Wakana (Kyara Uchida) also admired Tokue as much as Sentaro did. Since the dorayaki had a delightful taste, the shop ass filled by a long queue full of buyers. Their dorayaki became popular until Tokue’s illness rumor started spreading which brought the movie into a-tear-jerking story.

Sweet Bean by Naomi Kawase
Source: Trust Movies

We realize that Kawase used a special shooting technique  in Sweet Bean— the camera always have a slight shaky movement making the scene as if it is seen from the eyes of a human — which engages viewers to keep their eyes on each movie scene. Although from beginning the movie created a solitude and gloomy atmosphere, it did not make us sleepy or bored of the aesthetically pleasing cinematography. There was not much back-sound, only the classical piano that sometimes appeared— adding a sad and dramatic feeling to those who watch. We absolutely never thought a story of making dorayaki pancake could be this poetic and deep before. Kawase with Sweet Bean has successfully made us question ourselves after watching this movie; have we appreciated life and do the things that make us happy? We truly enjoy the whole experience and besides the moral of the story, the movie made us crave for a warm dorayaki so bad!

Writer: Rima Ramadhani / Editor: Novita Widia