A Family (also titled Yakuza and The Family) follows a Yakuza (gangster) life and his allegiance towards his boss, who brought him up as a father figure. Fujii Michihito’s narrative captures a captivating father-son relationship, tracing the rise and fall of the Yakuza empire in Japan. Thematically, it explores the meaning of loyalty and a man’s pledge to safeguard his extended Family.
‘A Family’ Plot Summary
In 1999, Kenji Yamamoto’s father, Masaharu, jumped into the ocean because he had no money for drugs. The tragedy devastated Kenji “Lil Ken,” who started resenting drugs. In his youthful rage, he brawled with a local drug dealer who worked for Kato, lieutenant of the Kyoyo-kai. Ken wanted to do good in life and not end up like his father.
In his efforts, Ken saved the life of Head Yakuza, Shibasaki Hiroshi. When Shibasaki offered him to become a part of the syndicate, Ken refused without considering. He didn’t want to join any mafia gang. However, Kato came out looking for Ken to recover his lost crystal meth. Kato was about to kill Ken when he found Shibasaki’s business card in Ken’s pocket. Kato believed Ken was a Yakuza.
Shibasaki paid Ken’s debt and saved his life. He later asked a blood-stained Ken if he wanted to stay. A ritual ceremony accepted Ken as a Yazuka and made him a part of the Shibazaki-gumi family. Hiroshi accepted Ken as his legal son.
Throughout the years, till 2019, Ken pledged loyalty towards the Yakuza gang. He did everything in his power to curb the rivals Kyoyo-kai and protect Hiroshi at all costs. The film further portrays his journey witnessing the modernization and fall of the Yakuza Empire in Japan.
‘A Family’ Ending Explained
In 2005, the rivalry between Shibazaki-gumi and Kyoto-kai intensified due to the redevelopment of the Kitaguchi area. A small bout between Ken and Reji (Kyoto-kai member) led to an attack on Shibasaki Hiroshi. In the assault, Ken saved Hiroshi but lost his friend, Ohara. Ken was burning with a vengeance, but Hiroshi suggested that the matter should be resolved by the police. Hiroshi didn’t want to further complicate the rivalry.
Even after the orders, Ken wasn’t able to contain his fury. Fuming with anger, he stabbed Reji and went to jail for 14 years. When he was released in 2019, the situation of organized crime had changed drastically. Yakuza was running low on income and boss Hiroshi was suffering from Cancer. The death of the leader and the gang was inevitable. In addition, many members left the gang because of an ordinance issued 8 years ago. Many Yakuza lived their life in hiding and despair.
Ken tried to meet his love, Yuka, and found out that he has a 14 years old daughter. In the end, a conflicting question was put in front of Ken. Whether to continue a life of despair as a Yakuza or choose the ordinary boring life without it and stay happily with Yuka and his daughter. On his deathbed, Hiroshi asked Ken to leave the gang. Ken left Yakuza, but society wasn’t ready to accept him.
Due to her relationship with Ken, Yuka was expelled from her government job. She resented Ken. Ken was in a fix. He didn’t know what to do with his life anymore. In those moments, Tsubasa, son of Aiko and Kimura, told Ken that he had found his father’s murderer. Ken found a pursuit to follow.
In 1997, Kimura worked for Shibazaki-gumi. He was killed by the Kato and Kyoto-kai gang, similar to the murder of Ohara. Ken joined the gang in 1999 and thus had no idea about Kimura or his murderers. In 2019, Kimura’s son, Tsubasa, became a low-life punk who saw Ken as an aspirational figure. Influenced by Ken, Tsubasa decided to avenge his father’s murder from Kato and corrupt police chief Kazuhiko Osako. Ken could foresee another Yamamoto in the making.
Before Tsubasa could reach Kato, Ken thrashed Kazuhiko and Kato with a bat and killed them on the spot. When Tsubasa reached the dining hall, his father’s murderers were already dead. Symbolically, Ken took his revenge on Kato and saved Tsubasa from living the life of a sinful assassin.
In the end, a closing montage depicted Yaku leaving the city and Hiroshi leaving the world. The two people Ken loved the most left him. A blood-stained Ken was stabbed to death by his best friend Hosono near the ocean. Hosono despised Ken for bringing the “Yakuza shame” to his life again. He was running away from the tag for 5 years, and Ken spoiled everything.
However, Ken didn’t hate his friend for stabbing him. In return, Ken hugged Hosono, offering “final goodbye.” Tsubasa brought flowers to Ken’s oceanside grave and met Yaku’s daughter. She was curious about the life of her late father, Kenji Yamamoto. A moist-eyed Tsubasa was ready to narrate the fable of his beloved hero. Lil Ken was made immortal by the stories.
A Family (also titled Yakuza and The Family) is a 2021 Japanese Crime Drama film written and directed by Michihito Fujii.