Tokyo Story is a 1953 Japanese drama film directed by Yasujiro Ozu. It is regarded as one of the best films of all time and while I do not find it that great, it is definitely a really respectable movie.
It is about an old couple who come to Tokyo to visit their children and grandchildren. Their children do not pay much attention to them whereas their daughter-in-law is really good to them. This is the kind of movie that isn’t particularly difficult to understand, but is never too simplistic and is rather sophisticated in its simple story because it showcases a lot of clever themes that are truthful and always relevant. I like how it wonderfully explores aging and the generational gap between parents and children and how it gets worse as time goes by. It also wonderfully shows how people from rural places cannot adjust to big cities. But the best parts are those that explore death and grief dealt after the death of loved ones along with the change and loneliness that happens then.
But overall I really liked its slice-of-life storytelling with realistic characters and a story that is relevant and honest throughout the whole running time. It started off somewhat slow, but it progressively got better and the whole third act is phenomenal with some of the best and most beautiful sequences present. And I loved the city sequences as they are filmed beautifully.
The characters are really good. They are not instantly likable, but you get to love them eventually. The grandmother is really such a pleasant woman and the grandfather is so well developed and he gets a really great conclusion that is very impactful and so emotional. The children are solid but underused unfortunately. However, it is Noriko who is the real standout here with such a fascinating character development and such a lovable and grounded personality. She and the grandfather got the best moments in the film.
The acting is fantastic. Everyone here did a splendid job with each and every performance being great. Chishu Ryu is phenomenal in a rather difficult role and he is just fantastic from beginning to end. But it is Setsuko Hara who is naturally the standout as she plays the most memorable and most sympathetic role and plays it wonderfully with such a subtle and natural performance. All of the actors and actresses did great here.
Tokyo Story is a technically polished film that just looks beautiful to behold. The cinematography is naturally phenomenal with camera transitions being inventive and the movie is overall superbly well shot with great angles. The directing from Ozu is fantastic and he is the biggest reason why the film works. The acting is terrific across the board and the score is also really good. The dialogue is smart and honest and the tone is deftly handled. The movie has a brain, but it also has a big heart which is evident in its last third which is super emotional and just hard-hitting and leaves a big impression. It is a unique and impactful experience for sure. The approach is very realistic and the script is really well written.
It is such a well crafted film that is also very artistic at times with a couple of simply fascinating scenes that are beautiful to behold, both visually and emotionally. But it isn’t a perfect film as it has its flaws which is mainly the pacing. The running time is not overlong in my opinion, but the movie is slow and too sluggish in pace in its first third. Some scenes are dragged and there should have been more dramatic scenes. And also the characters are forgettable at first, but they improve a lot as the movie progresses. It isn’t a perfect film, but it surely is a very good one and although not an ultimate classic in my honest opinion, it still is one of the best Japanese films I’ve seen without a doubt.
Tokyo Story is such a unique and emotional movie filled with relevant themes honestly depicted, likable and realistic characters, superb performances and such a fantastic directing from Ozu and brilliant cinematography. Its pacing is sluggish, but it is a fascinating and even an artistic experience that is emotionally rewarding and visually beautiful to behold.