“Sweet Red Bean Paste” (An) is a little Japanese movie from director Naomi Kawase. (Some markets havethe title only as ‘Sweet Bean’) I call it little because it seems low-budget: no special effects, no super heroes. But it is ny Kawase, a beloved Japanese filmmaker who is a favorite at Cannes. This movie is a celebration of dorayake, a Japanese sweet that is comprised of two small pancake rounds with an (sweet red bean paste) in between. I have never tasted it, but from what I gather from the film, it is very a very sweet confection. The film matches it sweetness. A seemingly unhappy man (Masatoshi Nagase) who makes dorayakis is pproached one day by an elderly woman (Kirin Kiki) asking for a job at his stall. He is skeptic, because of her age, but one day she brings her homemade sweet red bean paste and he is astounded by how delicious it is. So he asks her to make some with him – she shares her old age recipe which requires her to talk to the beans = and she starts working with him. Business booms, and all is well. But then we find out that she is harbouring a deep dark secret.
At this point, the movie could have gone in any direction, but it chooses a quiet sentimental streak. We feel pity for her, and we learn life lessons in the process. I liked teh film a lot, but it takes just a bit of patience. It could have been trimmed a little bit, and there is a third unnecessary character in the story that could have been easily cut. The film has a big generous heart, though, and it will prove to be infectious. And lovers of food porn will salivate over the treats. If for anything, you will learn how to make a dorayaki – though it might be a little difficult to do all the new age mumbo jumbo that Toku instructs you to do.