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Mother’s Day Movie Recommendation: No Blood Relation

Happy Mother’s Day! If you’re in the mood to celebrate the occasion with a movie screening, allow me to suggest Mikio Naruse’s No Blood Relation, a bittersweet melodrama that thoroughly explores the beautiful, painful complexities of motherhood.

When a famous Hollywood actress returns to her native Japan in order to reunite with the daughter that she abandoned six years ago, she quickly discovers that the girl is absolutely inseparable from her ex-husband’s borderline angelic second wife; as bitterness and resentment drive her to increasingly drastic measures in her effort to win the child’s affection through sheer brute force, she must confront the difficult truth that it takes more than simply sharing blood to forge a familial bond.

Featuring a surprisingly nuanced conflict (especially for a 1932 production) that treats every character—antagonists included—with an equal degree of sympathy and dignity, No Blood Relation is essential viewing. The fact that it’s a silent film makes it a bit of an acquired taste, of course… but I believe that its compelling central themes (as well as Naruse’s sublime direction, which utilizes dynamic camerawork to elegantly convey the turbulent emotions underlying the narrative) lend it universal appeal.

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