The elderly Shukishi and his wife, Tomi, take the long journey from their small seaside village to visit their adult children in Tokyo. Their elder son, Koichi, a doctor, and their daughter, Shige, a hairdresser, don't have much time to spend with their aged parents, and so it falls to Noriko, the widow of their younger son who was killed in the war, to keep her in-laws company.
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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 Simon Lange on Letterboxd
The essential watch before visiting your grandparents...
★★★★★ review by george 🎅 on Letterboxd
Upon finishing Tokyo Story, I immediately went to hug both of my parents with my eyes full of tears and my heart absolutely broken.
Apart from being parent appreciation propganda, Ozu's masterpiece relies on its simplicity and natural progression to convey the themes and emotion it so effortlessly presents us. When I did break down in tears, it was either from a line of dialogue or one of the grandparents doing something as simple as going to sleep.
I relished in the beautiful cinematography and wonderfully captivating performances from Chishû Ryû and Chieko Higashiyama and for that alone I am eternally greatful to this film.
I am tearing up just writing about this. One of the greatest motion pictures ever made. I love you Mum, I love you Dad and even though it stands as an impossible task, I will do my very best to repay any bit I can.
★★★★★ 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.
★★★★★ review by Dirk Diggler on Letterboxd
Cinema at its most pure and beautiful. So human. Thank you, mr. Ozu.
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