Tokyo Sonata, directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa (no relation to the master), is a timely social drama about the disintegration of a family after the main breadwinner loses his job. This movie would probably hit home for the many people who have lost a job during the current economic turmoil and is an insightful commentary on Japanese society.
When his middle-management job is outsourced to China, Ryuhei Sasaki (Teruyuki Kagawa) cannot find the fortitude to tell his wife Megumi (Kyoko Koizumi). Everyday, he puts his suit and tie on and pretends to go to work when, in fact, he does nothing else but spend the day at the job center and library or waiting in line at the free soup queue. One day, his wife sees him from afar, waiting in line at the soup kitchen, she knows but let’s on nothing. This is only the beginning of Ryuhei’s troubles though. His oldest son Takashi (Yu Koyanagi), unable to find a suitable job, decides to join the US military to fight in the Middle East. In the meanwhile, his younger son Kenji (Kai Inowaki) decides to take secret piano lessons using his school lunch money. Ryuhei attempts to use his fatherly authority to deny them but both are defiant. When all the family’s tightly bottled secrets and tense feelings finally start to come out, everything starts to unravel very quickly.
Kurosawa takes the film into strange and unpredictable directions from there, and for the most part, it makes Tokyo Sonata that much more resonant and powerful. One day, Ryuhei runs into a former high school friend, apparently successful and busy taking phone calls. It doesn’t take long before we realize he is also unemployed and has programmed his cell phone to ring a few times every hour. Ryuhei eventually finds a cleaning job at a mall, the ultimate humiliation for him. The director is able to make the most mundane scene insightful and dramatic from job interviews to household chores performed by Megumi. Some people had issues with the ending but I liked it, nothing is neatly resolved and it’s only a new start. Don’t we all wish for a new start every now and then?
Well-acted across the board, Tokyo Sonata is a twisted and unpredictable thriller of a melodrama. Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune to end the movie? Delightful.
Lesson of the Day: Without a job, many people lose their identity.
Notes: Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language, 120 minutes. Produced by Wouter Barendrecht, Yuki’e Kitô, Yasushi Kotani, Raymond Phathanavirangoon, and Michael J. Werner, directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, cinematography by Akiko Ashizawa, a Django Film release.