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When the patriarch of the Toda family suddenly dies, his widow discovers that he has left her with nothing but debt and married children who are unwilling to support her--except for her most thoughtful son, just returned from China.
Tense stand-off between a detective and a family in their apartment after a holdup.
"That Night's Wife" has four main characters. Three belong to a working-class family living in close quarters. The father (Tokihiko Okada) is a commercial painter who doesn't have enough money for medicine for his ill daughter (Mitsuko Ichimura) who has a fever. The doctor says the critical period is this night, and she needs the support of both parents. The mother (Emiko Yugumo) is at home tending the child that night while her husband goes out with a gun and does a masked holdup at a money-counting room of a bank. He makes good his escape by taxi, but it's driven by a detective (Togo Yamamoto) who follows Okada to his apartment and enters. There follows a tense night and confrontation with surprises.
The movie is well worth seeing for film noir fans because of the opening 20 minutes or so that show the robbery and the escape through the city streets, with Okada being pursued by a squad of policemen on foot. This is shown at night as in expressionist style. The tall buildings and Greek columns dwarf the men. There are many corners to turn in the shadows. The streets are deserted at near 1 am. Okada has to flatten himself against walls as there is no obvious place to hide.
Subsequently, the film dwells on the child's illness and the feelings of the parents and the detective, who has both a conscience and discretion. The story poses the dilemma of an honest man who doesn't have enough for his family, and a representative of the state who has a duty to arrest him and separate him from his family when the father's objective was a pure one. There is no social preaching in the film. There is a difference in how husband and wife deal with the situation that makes for an interesting contrast.
The scenario becomes rather drawn out and slow by today's standards, allowing plenty of time for the movie to convey the changing emotions of everyone visually in this silent film. There is a good deal of suspense as to how the conflict of consciences and social order will be resolved, and there are several surprises as well as the drama progresses.
Director Ozu included some movie posters of American films on the walls of the apartment, and in one early street scene we glimpse an ad on a wall and the name Walter Huston in large letters.
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