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Tokyo Sonata (2008) February 2, 2009

Posted by ayasawada in Film, Japan.
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The Sasaki family of Tokyo Sonata

The Sasaki family of Tokyo Sonata

I went to see Tokyo Sonata at the ICA on Sunday. It’s a beautiful film, though I guess a beautiful film about contemporary Japanese life is not so unusual.

The story follows the Sasaki family and how they each deal with life’s blows, particularly when Mr Sasaki loses his job, but decides to keep it a secret. Mrs Sasaki struggles with the suburban boredom of a dedicated housewife and a husband and two sons who keep their own secrets. The eldest son, Takahashi, is trying to figure out what to do with his life now that he’s graduating into adulthood. And the youngest, Kenji, doesn’t quite fit in, but finds solace in a sudden interest in music.


It’s a testament to the film how easily these four strands fit in with one another. Essentially, the film drifts through four segments, with a little portion focusing on each member of the family, whilst dipping in and out toward the climax. It’s very naturally acted by the cast, but I always wonder if it is easier on Japanese actors to play ‘normal’ when Japanese family life is generally quite uneventful (apart from the domestic disputes of course). Then again, a film like this requires a lot of implicit emotion in the face and body language. I guess I’m being unfair ^^;

The end of the film is a little weird as events spiral out of control for all concerned. But the family drifts back together the morning after and life goes on. I’m in two minds whether this symbolises the strength in the family unit versus the pain when one tries to undertake life’s hardships alone, or if it shows how in Japanese society you just deal with troubles and move on. Maybe it’s a bit of both. A final epilogue pulls things into a beautiful end, and some reviewers have accuesed this of cheapening the events prior to some extent by tacking on a happy ending. I like to think it has a redemptive feel, one that should come from a family unit no matter what mistakes you’ve made.



1. kmpnote - April 27, 2009

Hello, I watched this recently, too. I was impressed very much…A difficult system in recent years “Fluidity of the employment” and “Difference society”. People will be exhausted by adapting oneself to them now.This is a movie with such a theme.

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