Voted number 1 in the 2012 Sight & Sound directors’ poll, this gentle tale focuses on a small town Japanese couple, played by Chishū Ryū and Chieko Higashiyama, as they reflect on changing family values and relationships in post-war Japan. With their children scattered to Tokyo and Osaka, and too busy with their own lives to attend to their visiting parents, the couple find solace in the selfless attention of their widowed step-daughter, Noriko, played by Setsuko Hara, who finally confesses that she is motivated by loneliness. Both mother and father separately urge her to remarry.
It’s a film in which not a lot appears to happen, and what does occur tends towards disappointment, climaxing in the death of the mother and recriminations after her funeral. Yet the film remains genuinely uplifting in its humanity and understanding of the pressures on people’s lives in an increasingly hectic, commercialised world. As the “heroine”, Noriko embodies the tricky balance between tradition and respect on the one hand and self-actualisation and modernity on the other.
The concluding part of the Noriko trilogy, including Late Spring (1949) and Early Summer (1951), Tokyo Story is widely recognised as Ozu’s great masterpiece, not only for its story-telling but for its technical skill, from the editing through the cinematography.
[It] “lacks sentimental triggers and contrived emotion; it looks away from moments a lesser movie would have exploited. It doesn’t want to force our emotions, but to share its understanding“. Roger Ebert
‘Beautifully nuanced with unshowy tenderness‘. The Independent