From the eyes of little children, the Namahage festival is a time of demons raiding their homes and scaring them silly. From the eyes of adults, it’s a time of reconciliation with their family, where these devilish folklore creatures ultimately help them rekindle their relationships with their children. In the latest feature from development producer Hirokazu Kore-eda and debut director Sato Takuma, Any Crybabies Around? is a somber look at the legacy of tradition and the compassionate rekindling of family relationships. In some ways a commentary on how separation and isolation can result in the deterioration of tradition and the family dynamic itself, Any Crybabies Around? is ultimately a tale of redemption and the vindication of finding common ground.
Heavily relying on melodrama, Any Crybabies Around? can be incredibly plodding in its softer moments. Especially during filler-heavy scenes, where the film is just merely establishing either a location, motive, or new occupation, the film feels like an extended cut of a television drama. However, when the film delves deep into the Namahage tradition, and the influence it has on all of the characters, the film reroutes its trajectory to something more honest and profound. The film is a truthful dissection of moving on, how second chances can’t always be made and we have to accept our fate during unwarranted times. The finale of Any Crybabies Around? contains an incredibly moving ending, where Takuma wraps each of the character arcs with a nicely tied up bow of anxiety, loss, and reconciliation. Cherish what you have now. Appreciate the present. Because eventually, everything moves and goes away.
Any Crybabies Around? is now available to stream at this year’s 56th Chicago International Film Festival as part of the New Directors Competition program.