by Eric Green
This is one film made in Japan that is not made with U.S. filmgoers in mind; or, anyone else outside of Japan. But, it is a film about issues that everybody in the U.S. can relate to. Unemployment and the dislocation and terror that it brings to the smallest of human existence, the family. This a tough film about a tough subject.
The director, Kiyoshi Kurosawa is not unknown to filmgoers who are familiar with Japanese filmmaking. But, he is not related to the great Japanese filmmaker, Akira Kurosawa.
The core plot rather simple: Teruyuki Kagawa plays Ryuhei, the father of a "typical" Japanese family of 4. He gets layed off from a middle level executive position when that section of the company is outsourced to China. He doesn't tell his wife Megumi, played beautifully by Kyoko Koizumi. In fact, he continues to leave his home as if he is still working. This is not unlike what many middle level managers are doing here in the U.S.
Their oldest son, Takashi played by Yu Koyanagi, is already at the point of making a complete break from his rather authoritarian father. This son becomes so despondent about not being able to get a decent job; he actually joins the U.S. army. This is made possible by a little known change in Japanese law allowing their citizens to join an Army. This was apparently done to satisfy George Bush's desire for more non-U.S. troops in Iraq. The Japanese constitution prohibits Japan from fielding an army of its own. The film's creator made a special point of that event. His involvement in the Iraq war is a very special aspect of the film.
Their other son, Kenji played by Haruka Igawa, occupies significant aspects of the film when he confronts the authority figure in his life, his schoolteacher, with the teacher's hypocrisy. This becomes painfully applicable to his father. His happen stance seeing a local piano teacher instructing a young student captures his imagination and sets the stage for an overriding aspect of the film.
If this film were released in the U.S. a few years ago, I don't think it would have the appeal that it now will enjoy.
The worldwide economic financial crisis will unfold with creative expressions. This "Tokyo Sonata" is just one example of the relationship that all workers share in this international crisis.
If the film gets distributed in your area, don't miss it.