Tokyo Story

This is a long film, and it accrues significance with each scene. The effect is something like the epiphanies Joyce builds to in his Dubliners short stories, except that here the first one hits about half way through, with each scene after that adding fresh ones.

For the father, it's when he gets drunk with some old friends and the mask of respectability slips. He's finally able to be honest, and reveal his disappointment with his children. But unlike his more impatient drinking buddies, he at least realises that his expectations may be too high.

For the mother, it's when she stays over with her son's widow Noriko, after being turned out of her daughter's house. There she urges Noriko to let go of her late husband, and try to find a new partner. (The devoted young woman who refuses to marry and stray from her family is a recurring Ozu motif).

The final big whammy concerns Noriko herself – not a blood relative, yet does more for her adoptive parents than their own sons and daughters. Why? The sense of duty she displays is overwhelming. When she bursts into tears in front of the grandfather at the end of the film, she admits to feeling lonely and worried about the future as a single woman living alone in Tokyo. Although she is ashamed of her wish to move on and find a new husband, it's also obvious that she yearns for the surrogate family she already has, perhaps the only family she has (her own parents are never mentioned – they may have died in the war).

There is something vampiric about the care Noriko shows for her late husband's parents. As she explains to her sister in law, the distance between parents and children grows as time passes. It's a normal development that will happen to her eventually as well. That's why her gift of a watch from the grandfather is such a laden symbol. Time dissolves all attachments. Although given as a memento, it will also serve as her key to freedom.

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