Tokyo Story

An old couple visit their children and grandchildren in the city, but the children have little time for them.

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  • ★★★★★ review by Peaceful Stoner on Letterboxd

    Tokyo Story is poignancy refined and redefined. The entire film is poetic, heart rending and is immensely soulful. From the strikingly beautiful Japanese country side wearing a sultry look, the most humbly built homes on earth, with a score as sweet and soothing as a cuckoo’s early morning song, with people who bow and show respect in the most courteous manner; this film was incredibly touching and an invaluable life experience for me.

    Ozu brilliantly mesmerizes the viewer with the static and hyper observant camera, immersing us into the twilight days and wishes of an aging couple, The Hirayamas. The one wish they have is to visit their children, be with them under their roof, experience their love and care for a few days. Only then would their lives be complete, their satisfaction paramount and their death Peaceful. What ensues after this, forms for one of the most touching cinematic experiences I have ever been through.

    The elderly couple do not talk much but when they do, they shed pearls of wisdom. A film with such a heavy theme, with a story revolving around characters who are ripe old, could have easily gone overboard, sounding preachy and philosophical. But Tokyo Story never once gave me that feeling. It is always grounded in reality and so humbly underplayed and subdued. It would not be a hyperbolic statement even if I said this film is buried in reality. Each stare, each word spoken, each gasp, each contemplative silence, each reflective thought, each moment of the couple’s presence on screen filled me with such heart felt emotion and an outstanding appreciation of the gratification they hold so dearly of having lived a beautifully long, love filled life together. Every single performance in this extraordinarily well crafted film felt sincere and genuine. And Chishu Ryu and Chieko Higashiyama who portray the elderly couple are simply unsurpassable.

    What does age and time do to the bond between parents and children? Good parents always care for their children the same way no matter how much they have grown and matured. But, mostly it does not work the other way around. Children when independent almost invariably distance themselves from their parents. Distancing might not necessarily mean how far they are apart in physicality, but how formal, stiff and unnatural the bond has become and how distant their hearts and souls have become with the passage of time. The once unconditional love and warmth is now one sided and has been constricted by subordinate factors like time, money and endless other worldly parameters.

    The Separation might be a voluntary act fuelled by the desire to live freely, to pursue ambitious dreams and careers, to give into the enticement of money, moving away from the shade of constant admonition and protective care and revel in the sunshine of the world. This might also be an involuntary act where they have succumbed to the inescapable fate of falling in love with someone. What children never realize is that this sense of freedom is nothing earned. We are shown the path, our hands held firmly, guided away from pitfalls, constructed a strong person to face the severities of life. When fully capable of creating and supporting their own livelihood, the only thing which has to remembered and inculcated every passing day is; Everything they have achieved and are about to achieve would never have been possible without those two irreplaceable human beings, their parents.

    Tokyo Story conveys all these priceless truths and never once falls into the melodramatic mode or gives the impression of emotional manipulation, again because of the stellar performances and also because this is something that any human being on Earth would someday face. The old couple realize the changing world, the modern attitude, lifestyle and temperament and the harsh fight for survival. They wanted to see their World. The World for them is their children. But the children are absorbed by the expenditures of taking them around, totally failing to see the point, never realizing that their parents have already seen what they wanted to see. The couple are treated a bit inconsiderately but the way they take everything in their stride is something to admired and cherished. They have reached a point in their lives where they have nothing to lose. By now they have truly realized the greatest gift they received was not the birth of their children but how they have grown into above average people in such an unforgiving and harsh world. Never do they feel heart-broken or unsatisfied. They are content because with age comes the insurmountable knowledge of The Tree of Life and that everything will pass by with time.

    It is almost poetic justice delivered when we see an in-law showing more attention, honesty and love towards these precious people than their own children. Setsuko Hara's character and portrayal was incredibly moving and deserves a mention. This film is hearty, emotional, made me shed tears, made me cheery and gloomy, gave me the confidence to face life and also the death of a loved one. But more importantly it is one of the rare films which reminded me of the solemn oath that I had recently taken, to be a better son with every passing day.

    Tokyo Story states “You cannot serve your parents beyond the grave”. I confidently say that one can actually accomplish this servility by showering the same unconditional they once received from their parents, on their children.

    This is without doubt, one of the greatest films ever made. The memories absorbed, truths dispelled, lessons learnt here will last in my mind for as long as I live and I will make sure to pass those on to my children one day, when I make them experience Tokyo Story.

    Life is not disappointing. It has always been and always will remain to be A Bittersweet Life.

    Master Ozu, I bow to You.

  • ★★★★★ review by Paul Robinson on Letterboxd

    Tokyo Story the film I feel could gather so many differing views depending from what stage in life you are in, as a single male what I received most from this simple story that is so much more than its story was a sense of disappointment in myself for the way I am now and the way I was when I were younger. It was a film that made me feel I have not appreciated my parents love enough and as I still live at home and I see my mother every day I should take advantage of the closeness I could have now with her before the inevitable drift it seems when i have my own family and along with work commitments my life could become too busy.

    I mentioned the film is a simple story but it could be argued that it is not a story at all as the style Ozu uses shooting at a low angle, with no camera movement it at times feels like we are just watching a family live and deal with a visit from the their parents. So the story such as it is an old couple played exquisitely by Chishu Ryu and Chieko Higashiyama who have had 5 children together and are leaving their youngest unmarried daughter at home as they go visit their two oldest children in Tokyo. The two oldest children both married, and one has two kids. Also both seem to have successful careers one as the local doctor and another as the owner of a local hair salon. The two of them and their families are polite and respectful to the elderly couple but do not have much time to entertain, spend time and do things with them. This was a part of the film that made me so angry I was screaming inside myself thinking things like “you selfish bastards”. But that was an immediate reaction it was easy to dislike the eldest children especially when they would bitch and moan about their parents when they were not in the room. But they were not unnecessarily mean it was they had their own busy lives to lead and unfortunately entertaining the two people that brought them in to this world were the ones they had least responsibility for.

    But the film also introduces us to the angel like innocent daughter-in-law Noriko played brilliantly by Setsuko Hara she is the only person in Tokyo who spends the time taking out her in-laws, showing them the sights of the city even taking in the mother in when they return unexpectedly when the eldest children pay for them to stay in a spa for a couple of nights. This also leads to one of the lightest and funniest sections of the movie as the husband with no place to stay for the night meets some old friends and spends the night drinking an enormous amount of alcohol. Being cheeky and a little to frisky with the local barmaid and return to his daughter home smashed and then passes out in a salon chair to his daughter’s disgust.

    So I feel the film is about loneliness, romanticising, expectations, responsibility, disappointment, selfishness and probably other things that I just haven’t thought of. I took away the loneliness theme because Noriko the only person making the effort to spend time with the old couple denies her selflessness as being selfish and I don’t agree with her but when she says she is selfish and breaks down after the father tells her to move on and remarry and forget about his dead son she admits to her loneliness and this is where I believe she was referring to her selfishness as she was spend time with them to combat that. The family all show a sense of responsibility as when they all return to be by the mother’s side when she is suddenly taken ill and all kind of scorn is shown towards the youngest son when he does not arrive in time to see his mother before her death. But they all again show selfishness when they leave pretty soon after the funeral and start dividing the mothers belongings amongst themselves. The parents also suffer their own disappointments their romanticised view of their children is not held up when they arrive in Tokyo they are disappointed they have not achieved more success in their chosen field, they show they thought their arrival would be a bigger thing and they would be shown more things in Tokyo. But they learn and show that this is a feeling most parents go through as they talk about their slight disappointment to each other but when the husband goes out drinking his friends who live in Tokyo near their children noticed this long ago as they wee them more often.

    So with this very Japanese film that give us a wonderful portrait of a typical family but not just of a Japanese family but a universal one as well, and it is just a terrific piece of art that i very glad to have seen.

  • ★★★★★ review by Jaime Rebanal on Letterboxd

    This may not be a mere review but more a personal diary entry and reflection. I spent an entire night without sleep and I reflect upon my own guilt as I was watching Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story again, a specific film that only moved me to my core from the first moment in which I laid my eyes on it for I was left to think about what other members of my own family mean to myself. More recently, a group of online peers have also provoked me for I kept thinking of nothing but intense guilt over what I've done just for their own sake, and the stress it's brought on my end is unbelievable for what I myself am encountering at a young age, and it's where I find that my best means of communicating with others comes out from my own love of film.

    Where I pick Tokyo Story comes from how it's a film that pertains to the values of family and there's an extent to which I relate the film's picture of how important family is to us, to a circle of friends. The children in Tokyo Story are focused primarily on themselves, especially upon the time in which their elders have come around their home in order only for a simple reason, to pay a visit. Soon, I look back at myself under the light of these children and I reflect upon what I've done while I'm still living. I reflect upon the selfishness that I've shown in my attempts of caring about my friends, whether it was called for or not, and in many cases, it's uncalled for.

    These actors I saw, were not merely actors anymore, but instead of seeing excellent performances from an amazing cast, I saw what could possibly have been a mirroring of my own family and my own friendships. I felt the brokenness which had plagued the family because of one's selfishness. These actors were not playing characters, for instead I felt I was watching an actual family attempting to rekindle, almost like how my own friendships have played out, because no matter how much I try, I feel as if I only break everything more as I succumb to an egocentric belief. And there are many moments in which I don't want my parents sniffing into my own business, but maybe their words mean more. These people weren't actors nor characters, they were the family in itself, in all its brokenness and disappointment.

    Ozu's films never have their camera in movement, showing us what's there within the characters' emotions, especially since the details whether it be within the landscapes or the exteriors of buildings, they evoke a sense of peace and tranquility which we think we are in, especially under such emotional stress. Like life, everything moves at a rather slow and steady pace, but the slowness leaves me thinking as I want more to occur right away, I'm just too impatient even for life at times like this. Ozu utilized this slowness as a means of moving in the manner to which life flows, much like a river, at its own pace, and he lets the beauty entrance us.

    Yet where Tokyo Story impresses me most, I feel, comes out from what important themes are handled within the simplistic approach. Tokyo Story, for the humanistic values which it is worth, deals with family love and self-acceptance. The generational divide especially is rather clear, from the parents' representation of the classic lifestyle and the children are dying hope, succumbing to the modern world. Although Tokyo Story very much is intending to capture the Japanese lifestyle on the screen, there's very much a connection with any family and their own means of adapting to history before the war and after the war, thus the impact being all the more powerful.

    Upon the final moments of the film is where I find myself more moved than ever. I reflect upon the day when my uncle had passed away after a heart failure, when I was seven years old. At the funeral, many members of the family no matter how far apart they were, had come together, together with friends who also cared very deeply. The sadness I had felt since these moments hit the screen had hit me personally, because I feel that my relationships in life, whether it be among friends or family, are indeed broken, but it's only from the moment a death comes where the pieces seemingly fit together. Soon it's where I think to myself, why is it that we wait until something as drastic as death happens in order to rekindle? It just isn't right for me, it's not all that simple.

    As I finish up my thoughts in regards to Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story, I'd like to thank a select few friends of my own who have always been there for me. I'm sorry for the selfishness that I've brought onto you, because in the end, it's taken me down more of a road of guilt than anything and it hurts me more than imaginable. I've spent an entire night up because I felt so horrible about what I've done. I've tried reaching out to help you, but I drag myself down a road which I resent so deeply. Tokyo Story isn't merely a Tokyo story, it's simply a family's story, and the moment you notice you relate to it, it hits much harder than expected. Thank you for the support, and I'm sorry for bringing more harm than good down your way. They've asked, "Isn't life disappointing?" to which the answer afterward from Setsuko Hara was, "Yes, it is." Reflecting upon the truth in this, I'm only left saddened more.

  • ★★★½ review by CinemaClown on Letterboxd

    Simple, poignant & heartfelt, Tokyo Story is a meditation on old age & parents-children relationship concerning an elderly couple who take a trip to Tokyo to visit their grown-up children, only to find out that their kids don't have much time for them & it often contrasts with the couple's visit to their widowed daughter-in-law who treats them with kindness & also takes out time from her busy schedule to devote it in their service.

    Directed by Yasujirō Ozu, the story moves at a slow pace & conveys its message in a very subtle manner about the inevitable drift between parents & children as time passes. Cinematography is absolutely still like a careful observant in the room while editing progresses the story gradually & effectively. Music makes its entrance at key moments, adding more emotional punch and the performances by the entire cast is very honest & carried out with much politeness.

    On an overall scale, Tokyo Story is mainly about the growing distance between parents & children that subtly portrays the indifference, selfishness & ingratitude of the younger generation who consider the very people who sacrificed so much to nourish them into responsible human beings as a burden, and over the years with every passing generation, its universal theme keeps getting more n more resonant & will continue to do so for a very long time.

  • ★★★★½ review by Ole Holgersen on Letterboxd

    Tokyo Story is a deeply moving film and one of the best films I've seen concerned with the very vast and difficult theme that is Family.

    Wonderfully subtle and thematically rich, Ozu creates something really out of the ordinary with this film, touching upon so many difficult subjects that when it was finally over I was left with a feeling of emptiness and... loss, I suppose. I'll get to that later.

    The fear of becoming a disappointment can be every bit as heavy on one's shoulders as the reality of experiencing such disappointment, and this is what happens when Shukichi and Tomi Hirayama (played by Chishū Ryū and Chieko Higashiyama respectively), decide to go to Tokyo to pay their children a visit.

    Shukichi and Tomi experience that the connection between them and their children has been washed away like drawings in the beach sand, as time and growth slowly has replaced what was once warmth and unconditional love with nothing more than formalities and nice manners.

    Tokyo Story truly is a heartbreaking look into how essentially children will distance themselves from their parents, and that the love between parents and children becomes more and more one-sided with time. Concerned with their own lives (and their own children), parents tend to become less and less essential to them.

    Time can erase everything I'm afraid, even the love for one's mother and father. This is the cold and hard reality, and I guess I'm in the final stages of that depressing process as well...

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