German filmmaker Doris Dorrie plays the Ozu card to the hilt in Cherry Blossoms. Riffing on Tokyo Story, she sends her elderly married protagonists, Rudi (Elmar Wepper) and Trudi (Hannelore Elsner), from their small hamlet in Bavaria to visit two of their three adult children in Berlin (their remaining son lives in Tokyo), only to find themselves generally ignored and passed around by their uncomfortable, city-slicker offspring. For Trudi, the trip has special significance as the film opens with a pair of doctors informing her that Rudi is sick and has little time left, a fact she keeps secret from her husband so that she can bring him closer to his family without unnecessary pressure in his final days.
Left adrift by their children, the two leave Berlin early and head to the seaside to finish their vacation. When Trudi unexpectedly dies at the resort, Rudi’s left to reconcile with a family his famously organized persona (his mantra, uttered always in English: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”) hasn’t made much room for. Dorrie proves adept here at striking a tentative balance between the recrimination of children who felt Trudi was penned in by her husband’s rigidity and the bonds that undergird any family, no matter how estranged. Wepper ably anchors the proceedings. Where an English-language remake featuring Tom Wilkinson would necessarily feature panting and googly eyes, the German actor doles out little character tics—a breakdown in a cafe, an unexpected hug or touch, a gift of food brought from a continent away—sparingly over the course of the following coming-to-awareness narrative, which takes him to visit son Klaus in Tokyo, a city Trudi always longed openly and actively to visit.
Click here to read the rest of Jeff Reichert’s review of Cherry Blossoms.