When Norie died of cancer at the age of 32, she left behind two young children and a partner. Decades have passed since then, and her now-adult son, filmmaker Yuki Kawamura, still only knows his mother from photographs.
He decides to find out more, but keeps himself out of the frame in this sensitive portrait about an incomplete family and a broken circle of friends. There’s some attention for the natural world of Japan, but the camera is mainly focused on the filmmaker’s father, Munemitsu. The two of them mark Obon, a festival during which it’s customary for Japanese people to honor the spirits of their ancestors, by embarking on a journey to places and people from their past. Old photographs serve as the film’s leitmotif, together with letters that Norie wrote to her best friend as she was dying.
The father and son discover how much other women admired Norie; how she appeared as a spirit just after she died; and how she often figures in people’s dreams. Their quest also brings many feelings to the surface for Munemitsu. Shedding light on hidden and faded memories leads to moments of heartbreak and liberation.