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Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Naomi Kawase makes her feature debut with the understated family drama set in the mountains of rural Nara prefecture. The film centers on the Tahara family who eke out a living -- much like their ancestors -- from the local ancient cedar forests.
Living in a gorgeous old traditional abode, the household consists of patrician Kyoso (Jun Kunimura); his wife; his mother; his three-year-old daughter, Michiru; and 11-year old Eisuke, who is the son of Kyoso's sister.
When Kyoso's scheme of reviving the village's slumping economy -- the building of a railroad tunnel -- falls through, Kyoso descends into depression. Fifteen years later, Kyoso is still crushed by his previous failure and as a result the family struggles to get by. Eisuke and Kyoso's wife work at a local hotel while Michiru is a high school student.
With absence of any kind of meaningful paternal presence, Michiru and Eisuke grow closer and closer until it becomes clear that their attraction goes beyond family affection. One day, Kyoso disappears taking only the family's Super-8 camera. Soon the police call, reporting the discovery of a body clutching a camera.
With the lynchpin of the family dead, the others go elsewhere to find their fortunes.