Directed by Yasujiro Ozu. Japan. 1953.
As the film opens, we see an empty street, empty train tracks and an empty pier, perhaps an early indicator of the sense of loss that pervades the film. An elderly father, Shukishi Hirayama (Chishu Ryu) and his wife Tomi (Chieko Higashiyama) are preparing to travel by train to visit their children in Tokyo. When they arrive, they are met with indifference by daughter Shige (Haruko Sugimura), their grandchildren Minoru (Zen Murase) and Isamu (Mitsuhiro Mori), and son Koichi (So Yamamura), a Tokyo pediatrician. When Koichi is called to visit a patient and Shige cannot leave her beauty salon, the Harayamas postpone a sightseeing trip and start to complain that they expected the children would be living in more comfortable circumstances. Their widowed daughter-in-law Noriko (Setsuko Hara), however, welcomes them warmly and gives them the experience of being appreciated.
To give themselves some
breathing room, the children pool their resources and send their parents
to Atami, a health spa. Their visit, however, is cut short when the noise
and crowds make going home seem like a better alternative. When they get
back to Tokyo, Shige tells them she has a meeting scheduled at her house
and Tomi decides to spend the night with Noriko. Shukishi, in a very humorous
scene, goes out drinking with old friends and shows up late at night at
Shige's house completely drunk. When the elderly parents return to Onomichi,
the mother suddenly becomes very ill and the entire family, including youngest
son Keizo from Osaka, must come and visit them. The moment of epiphany
comes when the youngest daughter Kyoko (Kyoko Kagawa) asks Noriko whether
or not life is disappointing. Her answer mirrors Ozu's concept of mono
no aware, that we cannot avoid the sadness of life, but her beaming face
tells us that things are just the way that they are and that it is perfect.
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