How a family copes with Alzheimer’s is the subject of “Oriume” as it was the central concern of helmer Hisako Matsui’s only other feature, “Yukie.” Pic initially maintains that nice, crisp dispassionate distance that Japanese cinema can seemingly conjure at will. But when Tomoe (Mieko Harada) starts bonding with her afflicted mother-in-law, Masako (Kazuko Yoshiyuki), and discovers how to treat her, pic does a 180 and gets bright and uplifting — but way over the top. Acting by femme leads is superb, however, and generally insightful treatment of Alzheimer’s may attract specialized interest.
“Secret” of dealing with senility turns out to be fairly commonsensical, and pic for a time seems cogent and convincing in tracing treatment’s positive effects both on granny and the rest of the brood. But Matsui doesn’t know when to stop. Masako not only takes up painting but becomes the Grandma Moses of Toyoake. By the ending, which shows the family holding hands and smiling madly among the apricot blossoms, it’s hard to distinguish uplift from parody.