Reconciliation With Parents


海街日記(うみまちダイアリー)是日本導演是枝裕和的清新小品, 我更喜歡它的英文片名 Our Little Sister – 我們的小妹妹。這是一部關於和解與接納的電影,也是一部很女性很療癒的電影,適合曾經在母親那裡受傷的人細細品嘗。

Umimachi Diary is a refreshing piece by Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda. I like its English title, Our Little Sister, more. This is a film about reconciliation and acceptance. It is also very feminine and very healing – good for people who have been hurt with their mother to savor unhurriedly.


The story starts with three sisters living in the old house left by their grandparents. One day, they receive some news. Their father, who had divorced their mother for another woman, has passed away. After the divorce, the father had exiled himself to a small town far away. He had been too embarrassed to see his three daughters again and now he has passed away from an illness.


The daughters of the victim meet with the daughter of the perpetrator


小妹妹是”那個女人”的女兒。小妹妹的母親當年和她們的父親外遇,拆散了她們的家庭,對於她們和她們的母親來說是一個加害者,小妹妹是加害者的女兒, 而三姐妹則是受害者的女兒。

The three sisters meet their little sister for the first time when they attend the funeral. The little sister is the daughter of “that woman.” Her mother had harmed their family by having an affair with their father. For the three sisters and their mother, the little sister’s mother is the perpetrator. Therefore, the little sister is the daughter of the perpetrator, and the three sisters are the daughters of the victim.

觀察敏銳的大姐在喪禮中一眼看出小妹妹的處境,原來小妹妹的母親去世之後, 父親再娶,他的第三任妻子並不想承擔責任,她習慣了被別人照顧,連向賓客答禮的任務也想逃避,想要小妹妹去做。大姐挺身而出説:這是成年人的工作,不能讓小妹妹去做。小妹妹的繼母才說:我明白了,我會去做的。看到這種情況, 大姐心裏明白, 父親在病榻上最後的時光, 是在小妹妹的陪伴下度過的, 她看見了小妹妹的善良懂事,於是邀請她搬來和三姐妹一起生活。

The oldest sister is observant and she sees through the situation during the funeral. Their father had married again after the little sister’s mother died. His 3rd wife is used to being taken care of by someone, and she doesn’t really want to accept responsibilities. At the funeral, she doesn’t even want to accept the responsibility of addressing the guests.  Had the big sister not said something, she would have had the little sister to take on the task. “This is adult’s job. It shouldn’t be asked of her.” Only then, the 3rd wife says “I understand. I will do it.” Seeing this, the big sister knows it is the little sister who had looked after their father in his last days. She sees the kindness and maturity in the little sister and invites her to move in with them.

大姐做的這個決定意味著什麼? 這個決定為她們的家庭帶來了什麼改變?

What does the big sister’s decision mean? What changes would this decision bring to their family?


The Hidden Dynamics of The System I: Moving Towards Wholeness 

在三姐妹平靜的生活底下, 大姐和二姐各自陷在不健康的兩性關係之中。大姐與醫院的同事, 一個有婦之夫交往,她付出了青春,溫柔地體諒男人,而男人總是有理由,不肯離婚。二姐則老是和無用的男人約會,給他們錢,為他們買單,甚至為了男人也不太在意自己的工作,盡管她從不放棄爛桃花,但最後她總是被拋棄的那一個。為什麼兩個溫柔美麗、善良又有能力的現代女性, 會陷在這樣的兩性關係中無法自拔?

Underneath the seemingly quiet life, the big sister and the second sister each are trapped in unhealthy relationships. The big sister is involved with a married man, her colleague in the hospital. She watches her youth slipping by while patiently waiting for the man. Yet, the man always has reasons for not divorcing his wife. In the meantime, the second sister keeps on dating “useless” men. She gives these men money and pays their bills. As she spends her time and energy on them, she neglects her own career. Although she’s so accommodating and never gives up, she is always the one who’s getting dumped.

Why would two nice, beautiful, kind and capable modern women be trapped in such relationship patterns?


Let’s look at the big sister first. She is a victim of an extra-marital affair. Her family has fallen apart because of the affair. Why does she become the third party in someone’s marriage?


From a Family Constellation point of view, this is the effect of the hidden dynamics of the family system on its members. Systems demand wholeness, no matter right or wrong, good or bad. When someone in the system is excluded, other people in the system will fill in for the one who is excluded. More so, this job is usually taken on by the next generation. In order for the excluded ones not to be forgotten or passed over, someone in the next generation will, with their own life and action, make these members seen and remembered. This is Blind Love. However, children usually cannot resist what their system demands.


Since the father had left his family for another woman, he and his lover are not to be mentioned and not to be seen again in the family. These two members are shut out. However, a father always belongs to the family, no matter what he has done. His lover, through the affair, has changed the fate of the family. Therefore, on the soul level, she also belongs to the family. She has become a part of the family system. The big sister as the oldest child, is driven by the hidden dynamics. Subconsciously, for the sake of keeping her family system whole, she is filling the empty spot left by the father’s lover. She does so by playing the same role in her own relationship as her father’s lover is playing in her family; for the sake of keeping the lover remembered.

再來看二姐, 她代表的人是誰呢?

Then let’s look at the 2nd sister. Who does she represent?

是爸爸,是那個在大姐口中善良而無用的爸爸。是那個借朋友錢,結果自己背債; 同情女人,結果惹上婚外情的爸爸。二姐倒貼男人,不拿自己當一回事,其實彰顯了爸爸善良而無用的特質,為了不使缺席的爸爸被遺忘,她在她自己的兩性關係中活得善良而無用。

She represents the father. The father who was recounted as nice but useless by the big sister; the father who lends friends money and ends up in debt; the father who sympathizes women and ends up having an affair. The second sister highlights her dad’s “nice and useless” qualities, by letting herself be taken advantage of by men, and by not taking herself seriously. In order for her absent father to be remembered, she becomes the “nice and useless” one in her own relationships.

兩姐妹各自以她們的感情生活紀念這兩位被排除的家人,一個紀念父親, 一個紀念父親的情人。這樣説或許很玄,但隨著小妹妹的到來,父親重新被提起,被看見,小妹妹的母親也不再是隱形的,開始被家族看見,隨著系統要求完整的動力得到滿足,我們可以看見大姐找到新的方向,離開情婦的角色,二姐也開始對工作認真,不再追逐爛桃花。

The two sisters carry out their intimate relationships in memory of these two excluded family members; one for the father, and the other for the father’s lover. This may sound strange; however we can see changes happening as the little sister joins them. As she arrives, the father becomes seen and mentioned again. Since the little sister is there, her mother is no longer invisible and also starts being seen by the family. As the system’s demand for wholeness is being satisfied, we can see that the big sister finds a new direction and leaves her role as someone’s mistress. We can also see that the second sister becomes more serious about work, and stops being involved in bad romances.


The Hidden Dynamics of The System II: Moving Towards Reconciliation 

當三姊妹對小妹妹發出友善的邀請, 象徵著受害者與加害者開始看見彼此,這也是和解的開始。

When the three sisters send a friendly invitation to the little sister, this symbolizes the beginning of victim and perpetrator looking at each other. This is also the beginning of reconciliation.

雖然小妹妹和姊姊們都相處得很融洽,但是,她的心底一直懷著一份罪惡 感。因為她的父母是由婚外情結合,而她是這分婚外情的結果,她覺得自己來到這個世界上,是以有人受傷做為代價,雖然姊姊們接納了她,但懂事如她,為了怕惹姊姊傷心, 將她自己對父母的思念藏在心裏,不敢在姐姐們面前提起和父親相處的時光,更不敢提起自己的母親。在這裡,和諧是以某些人和某些感覺不被看見作為代價,父親和父親的情人還沒有真正被看見, 被認可,因此這不是真正的和諧,受害者與加害者之間也沒有達到真正的和解。

Although the little sister gets along with her older sisters, she has always carried a sense of guilt. Because her parents were together as the result of an affair and she is the fruit of the affair, the price of bringing her into the world is someone being hurt. As much as her sisters accept her, she hides her longings for her parents in her heart, for she would not want to hurt her  sister’s feelings. She will not mention the time she had shared with their father, and will not say a word about her mother. Here, the price for harmony is to not mention someone and not share certain feelings. The father and the father’s lover are not yet really seen and recognized. Therefore, this is not true harmony. The victim and the perpetrator have not reached the true reconciliation.


When the mother of the three sisters come to attend their grandmother’s anniversary ceremony, hidden conflicts surface. The big sister still holds it against mom for leaving them when she was 15. She has a fight with her mother because mom says it’s a good idea to sell the old house. After mom has left, the second sister also blames the big sister for being hard on their mom.

衝突過後, 小妹妹終於對大姐說出她心裏真正的感覺,她說她的母親愛上了有婦之夫,是個壞女人。

After all these conflicts, the little sister finally reveals her true feelings to the big sister. She said, her mother must be a bad woman because she had fallen in love with someone else’s husband.

在這裡我們可以看到, 加害者和受害者的女兒同樣有著缺憾的童年,受害者的女兒責怪母親迷糊,不負責任,也隱約責怪母親當年無能留住父親;  加害者的女兒不接受自己的母親破壞別人的家庭,愛上不該愛的人。兩者同樣覺得母親不夠好,也同樣在某種程度上評判母親, 希望母親做得更好。在這裡,母親成了加害者。

Here we can see what the perpetrator’s daughter and the victim’s daughter have in common – a childhood with regrets. The victim’s daughter blames her mom for being irresponsible and confused. There is also a hint of blame toward the mother for not being capable of keeping her man. The perpetrator’s daughter, on the other hand, cannot accept her mother for destroying other people’s family and for falling in love with the wrong person. Both daughters think their mothers are not good enough. They judge their mothers to some degree and they wish their mothers could have done better. Here, the mothers become the perpetrators.

我的老師索菲海靈格曾經說: 所有的助人者都是受害者,所有的助人者也都是加害者。當我們千篇一律地陷在自己人生的痛苦中,我們心中最初以及最終的加害者,其實是母親。因為我們覺得母親不夠好,因為我們希望母親更強,因為我們不喜歡母親的命運,因為我們希望母親曾經做出不一樣的決定。很多時候,這成為我們人生中隱藏的動力,尤其是女人。我們要做得比母親更好,我們要擺脫母親的命運,我們要強,我們不要再像母親一樣做受害者,也不要再成為母親的受害者。當我們以這個動力為出發點,我們人生中發生的所有的事,就會像在電影裏看到的,最後都離不開受害者與加害者之間的循環。

My teacher Sophie Hellinger once said: All helping professionals are victims, and all helping professionals are perpetrators. When we are trapped in the sufferings of our life over and over again, the first and the ultimate perpetrator in our mind actually is mother. Because we don’t think our mother is good enough; because we wish our mother was stronger; because we don’t like the fate of our mother; and because we wish our mother had made a different choice. Much of the time, this becomes the hidden drive in our life, especially for women. We want to be better than our mother. We want to get rid of our mother’s fate. We want to be stronger. We don’t want to be a victim like our mother, and we don’t want to be our mother’s victim again. When we are driven by this hidden force, everything happens in our life becomes a cycle between the victims and the perpetrators, just like in the film.


So, what inspiration has this film brought for us?

真正的和解沒有受害者, 也沒有加害者

True Reconciliation Has Neither The Victims Nor The Perpetrators

小妹妹的話觸動了大姐, 促使她放下自己受傷的感覺, 以一個成年人的身分說出真相: 事情就是這樣,誰也沒有錯,而誰也沒有辦法。這其實就是和解的真意,超越受害者與加害者之間的對立,不再去追究誰做了什麼, 誰不該做什麼。然而這是一個很抽象很高遠的理想,在現實生活中如何實現?

What the little sister has said touches the big sister. She forgets her own hurt feelings and tells the truth as an adult: It is what it is. It is nobody’s fault, and no one can do anything about it. This is the true meaning of reconciliation: to move beyond the opposition between the victim and the perpetrator, to no longer obsess about who did what, and who shouldn’t have done what. However, this is an airy idea far and abstract. How is it to be realized in real life?


母親離去前為每一個姐妹帶來禮物,包括小妹妹。大姐終於放下衿持,和母親一起去給外婆上墳,也聽到了母親對外婆說: 對不起,我是個壞女兒,這麼久沒有來看您。而大姐明白自己對母親的生疏又何嘗不是如此? 一點一滴地,她放下對於父母親隱藏的批判,她請母親多來看看她們,也在工作上注意到一個平常在別人眼裡無用的同事,這個無用的同事對一個已經死去的病人卻是那麼溫柔。她想到父親臨終時不能原諒自己,而使三姐妹沒有機會見父親最後一面,如果有這樣一位無用而溫柔的護士和他談談心事,或許能減少一些遺憾吧。就這樣,大姐看見了父親,那個無用且溫柔的父親; 也原諒了母親,那個無能留住父親的母親。

Before she leaves, the mother brings gifts for each sisters, including the little sister. Seeing this, the big sister finally lets go of her resentment, and goes to the grandmother’s grave with her mother. Her mom says to grandma: I am sorry for being a bad daughter. I haven’t come to see you for so long. Hearing this, the big sister realizes that she, too, has put the same distance between her mother and herself. Little by little, she releases her hidden judgement towards her parents. She asks her mother to come visit again. She also notices a colleague who is seen as “useless” by others. This “useless” colleague is so gentle with a patient even after the person has passed away. She wishes her father had such a nurse before he passes away. Their father could not forgive himself, therefore had not given the three sisters their last chance to see him before he passed away. Perhaps there would be fewer regrets if he had a “gentle and useless” person to talk to. Now the big sister sees her father, the father who was gentle and useless. She also forgives her mother, the mother who is not capable of keeping her husband.

這是大姐與自己父母的和解,接受他們的糊塗, 接受他們的不負責任, 接受他們的善良和無用,看見父親,接納母親,她就不再需要以盲目的愛去懷念父親,指責母親。從這裡開始,她找回了內在的方向,沒有責怪,沒有控訴地結束了和情人的關係。同樣的, 在這段與情人的關係中,沒有受害者,也沒有加害者。當她放下對母親的指責,她也就放下了對於受害者的執念。從這裡,她也找到了更好的紀念父親的方式,寛恕自己有缺憾的童年,將缺憾昇華為更大的愛,幫助臨終病人寛恕自己或有缺憾的人生。

This is the reconciliation between the big sister and her own parents. She accepts their confusion, their irresponsibility, their kindness and uselessness. Seeing the father and accepting the mother, she no longer needs to remember the father and to blame the mother with blind love. From here on, she finds her inner direction, and ends the relationship with her lover without blame or accusation. When she lets go of her blame towards mother, she also lets go of the obsession about victimhood. Also, she finds a kinder way to remember her father, to forgive her childhood regrets, and to transform the regrets into a bigger love. She chooses to help patients in palliative care to forgive themselves and to release their life’s regrets.

這是一部溫柔而含蓄的電影,情感細膩,緩緩鋪陳,真正的和解其實就可以這樣溫柔, 一點一滴慢慢在生活中發生。 當小妹逐漸能和姐姐們提起爸爸,原本是她和爸爸獨享的時光也豐富了三姊對於爸爸的想像,爸爸經由分享在四姐妹的心中變得更完整,愛,變得更多而不是更少。

This is a balmy film with implicit meanings and subtle feelings. The pace is slow and the mood gentle, just as true reconciliation could happen over time in daily life. Gradually, the little sister is able to talk about their father with her sisters. This has also enriched the 3rd sister’s memories of her father. Through the little sister’s sharing of her time with their father, he becomes larger for all four of them. Love, becomes more, not less.

最後,小妹終於說出她對母親的渴望,媽媽是笨蛋,而她,”多麼希望能有更多時間和媽媽在一起…… 這是所有孩子心底的渴望! 那一刻,沒有受害者, 也沒有加害者。大姐告訴小妹 ” 你可以談你的媽媽”,這時,受害者與加害者之間的界線完全消失,真正的和解達成,這個家庭系統也就完整了。

At last, the little sister voices her longing for her mother: her mom was an idiot. Nevertheless, she wishes she could have more time with her……! This is the deepest wish of every child. At that moment, there is no victim, and no perpetrator. When the big sister tells the little sister “You can talk about your mom” what divides the victim and the perpetrator dissolves completely. The true reconciliation has been reached, and the family system becomes whole again.


This is the power of love and reconciliation; very gentle, very feminine.

For all children longing for their mothers.

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