3 December 2015 | 1:22 pm | Madeleine Laing

"An is warm and unexpectedly moving."

One of the surprising standouts of this festival, An is a sweet and sad story about a woman crushed by injustice and rejection her whole life, who finally finds a place to belong for a brief period and changes the lives of everyone around her in the process.

The film's title refers to the sweet red bean paste that the glum Sentaro (Masatoshi Nagase) uses in his dorayaki (small filled pancake sweets). He takes no joy in his work (he doesn't even have a sweet tooth) and gets the paste delivered in bulk, before an old woman named Tokue (Kirin Kiki) arrives with her perfect recipe. She begins working as his assistant and makes the an fresh every day, drawing lines of customers down the block in no time. Tokue is a delightful presence in the shop, doling out advice to the schoolgirl regulars and helping Sentaro discover his passion again. But when old prejudices arise, their happy little world is quickly soured.

It seems like a lazy comparison, but the prettiness of this film as well as the focus on food, nature and water, strongly recall a live-action, less fantastic, Miyazaki film. An is warm and unexpectedly moving — at the beginning the film seems like a light take on a familiar odd couple situation, but quickly becomes darker, leaving you with a lingering melancholy long after the film ends.