An aging couple travels from their rural village to visit their two married children in Tokyo. Upon their arrival though, they are met with a disappointing reception, as their children and their families give them little attention. Their behavior contrasts that of their widowed daughter-in-law, who tries her best to entertain and accommodate them. Following the trip, each child reflects on their general behavior towards their parents. For some of them, their realizations about how they treat their parents may come too late.
To lose your children is hard, but living with them isn’t always easy either.
This is the first film I’ve seen from director Yasujirō Ozu, one of the most widely acclaimed from Japanese cinema. After watching Tokyo Story, it wasn’t one that I immediately fell in love with like my other blind spot entries this year, but it’s one that’s really grown on me since seeing it. It moves at a slow pace, juxtaposing the bustling city in which the film is set, but I think in that sense it reflects the way life is. Certain periods of time in one’s life may drag on, especially those periods that aren’t to one’s liking. In other times, things happen so quickly, that there’s almost not enough time to react to abrupt events. Just like the old couple’s children in the film, we’re sometimes so engrossed with our own lives that we don’t stop to check in with family and friends that we don’t see on a daily basis, especially our parents. Life is bittersweet in this sense, as parents give so much of their time to children, and sometimes children can’t, or don’t want to, return the favor.
Tokyo Story is poignant with its presentation, as it doesn’t try to hit its audience over the head with its message. It raises philosophical questions about life, but the dialogue itself is natural and true to the way people carry conversations. Setsuko Hara in particular has such an innate presence in every scene she’s in, and her portrayal as widowed daughter-in-law Noriko is filled with a perfect balance of sorrow and hope. As her character points out towards the end of the film, it’s inevitable for children to drift away from their parents as they grow older. The film reminds us that spending time with loved ones and enjoying life’s moments is invaluable, and that we shouldn’t take them for granted.
Tokyo Story (1953)
Directed by: Yasujirō Ozu
Starring: Chishū Ryū, Chieko Higashiyama, Setsuko Hara
Oscar Nominations: N/A