Tokyo Sonata

Film, Drama
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Tokyo Sonata
An extremely impressive and intricate family drama from Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (no relation to the late Akira) and a classy sidestep from his usual, well-above-average J-horror output which includes 1998’s noteworthy techno nightmare ‘Pulse’.

Part coruscating state-of-the-nation address, part Capra-esque redemptive saga, this is an invigorating and colourful enquiry into the hazards that come with resting on your laurels within the work arena. It casts a comic but compassionate eye over the lower-middle-class Sasaki family, starting from the point when inexpressive, officious patriarch Ryuhei (Kai Inowaki) is fired from his steady office job. Instead of rushing home to relay the bleak news to his wife and two sons, he decides to act as if nothing has happened and join the city’s displaced hordes of unemployed and underqualified (drawing parallels to Laurent Cantet’s ‘Time Out’).

His attempts to uphold a bruised dignity backfire, with much of his pent-up rage unleashed towards his oddball son Kenji (Kei Inowaki), who, incidentally, has designs on fulfilling an inkling that he may be a piano prodigy. The narrative crescendos about three-quarters of the way through as the various, now-estranged members of the family all hit a personal low. There’s a slightly uncomfortable tonal shift from the ironically subdued to the vaguely screwball, but thematically, the film remains remarkably sure-footed, offering a thought-provoking critique of stereotypes, gender roles and archaic tradition within Japanese society while delivering a chillingly prescient study of a family forced to reformulate its priorities at the hands of economic decline. The ‘uplifting’ ending, too, will really stick with you.

By: David Jenkins


Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday January 30 2009
Duration: 120 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Screenwriter: Sachiko Tanaka, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Max Mannix
Cast: Yu Koyanagi
Kanji Tsuda
Kyoko Koizumi
Koji Yakusho
Kai Inowaki
Teruyuki Kagawa
Haruka Igawa

Average User Rating

5 / 5

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godfrey hamilton

A masterpiece, no less, on a par with Kiyoshi Kurosawa's astounding 'Bright Future' (and by Bright Future I mean the original 115 minute Japanese version, not the 88 minute cut released in the UK)