An elder ronin samurai arrives at a feudal lord's home and requests an honorable place to commit suicide. But when the ronin inquires about a younger samurai who arrived before him things take an unexpected turn.
During the First World War, two French soldiers are captured and imprisoned in a German POW camp. Several escape attempts follow until they are sent to a seemingly impenetrable fortress which seems impossible to escape from.
An elderly couple journey to Tokyo to visit their children and are confronted by indifference, ingratitude and selfishness. When the parents are packed off to a resort by their impatient children, the film deepens into an unbearably moving meditation on mortality Written by
The excuses we make to justify our neglect of others
An appreciation of this movie may demand some understanding of Japanese culture. The Japanese are rather reserved, and were even more reserved back in the early 1950's, when this film is set. No embracing, even of parents, children, siblings; no dramatic histrionics; even a death scene in this movie is much quieter than a Westerner might expect.
Consequently I can't really blame several reviewers here for calling this movie boring and slow-paced. But it is not at all slow-paced from a different cultural perspective. It just depends on what you're used to.
If you do take the time to watch and try to understand it, you'll find an engrossing analysis of the dynamic of a middle-class family, the rift that grows up between generations, and of the many excuses we find ourselves making to justify our neglect for others, even those dearest to us. These themes are universal, but are couched in a postwar Japanese idiom, and so probably less accessible to the average Western viewer.
I have wondered awhile about a speech at the end by Noriko, the widowed daughter-in-law, in which she denies that she's such a good person (though her actions in the movie indicate otherwise). I'm still not sure I understand her motives in saying this. For the most part, however, this movie will not leave you puzzled, but it may leave you a bit wiser, and a bit more reluctant to make those excuses.
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