Tokyo Story (1953)

A man and woman sit on a ledge and look away into the distance
The Criterion Collection cover art for the movie Tokyo Story
About the movie
  • Director: Yasujirô Ozu
  • Starring: Chishû Ryû, Chieko Higashiyama, Sô Yamamura
  • Yes or no?: Yes
  • Links: on Letterboxd, IMDb page
Other reviews:

It’s a movie where not a lot happens, but you really understand some family dynamics that represent all of us. I came away from the movie feeling sad.

The mundane way in which the children fall into their own roles surrounding both the parents’ visit and the mom’s subsequent death resonates with how life really works.

You do still have to go to work. You do still have to take care of the home front. Those things are understandable to me, a middle-aged, middle class person who works full time and has concerns of my own.

But there’s also the beauty that comes with going a little beyond the norm and actually spending the time it takes to make people feel seen. Their widowed daughter-in-law, Noriko, is the only character present for the bulk of the film to give them a real visit. She went out of her way to spend time with them, and in the end, she wound up being the one Tokyo child to really have a deeper connection.

Even Kyoko, their daughter who still lives at home, calls the remaining siblings selfish, and they lower the bar even further when asking about items they can keep from their just-deceased mother.

I wrote down that I think this movie is a bit of an immersion into regular-ness. The lives of the kids are so normal that the movie paces itself as if we’re in them. The children’s lives are too busy to deeply connect with their aging parents, and they ultimately fail to really know their mother who dies in the film. It’s sad, but also a very real look at multi-generation dynamics in a modern world.

Some notes:

  • The grandson was a bit of a shit
  • Both parents/grandparents were forgetting things—perhaps foretelling the later loss
  • Why does the son’s wife have to stay home instead of showing the parents around?
  • The brief shots of Tokyo itself make it look very small compared to what I know about Tokyo now
  • World War II looms really heavy—all the older people in the movie had lost sons in the war, it seems
  • The mom died with her kids at her side—then they immediately went about their lives

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December 07, 2023
Tags: criterion collection
Categories: Reviews