The plot follows the same basic framework. Retired teacher Shukichi Hirayama his wife, Tomiko live on a small island near Hiroshima. They come visit their grown children in Tokyo for a few days. There were five children in the original film, the youngest a schoolteacher who lived with them. This time there are three, probably a more accurate demographic for current-day Japan, but like the first story, the elderly couple is shuttled around rather mercilessly by their children who are leading their own hectic lives. They first visit with elder son Koiichi, a local doctor, his wife and two kids. Then there is the snippy daughter Shigeko who has a buffoonish husband and runs a hair salon. Last is youngest son Shoji, a freelance set designer who barely scrapes by but doesn't seem to mind. Noriko is no longer a widow central to the story on her own but rather Shoji's hidden girlfriend, the one who eventually provides the bridge to his largely estranged parents.
As anyone familiar with "Tokyo Story" will know, tragedy strikes, and the surviving family comes to terms with what remains of their elusive bonds with one another. Zeroing in on three children would lead one to believe deeper characterizations would follow, but Yamaha and Hiramatsu seem so intent in evoking the original story, the opportunities are lost. Even passing mentions of the Fukushima earthquake and the country's pallid economic state do little to make the story feel more vibrant and relevant. The cast is proficient but variable when it comes to lasting impact. As Shukichi, Isao Hashizume plays the role in a more standard curmudgeonly fashion than Ozu regular Chishū Ryū, but Kazuko Yoshiyuki hits the right notes as Tomoko. Masahiko Nishimura plays Koichi even more stoically than Sô Yamamura did as the role remains elliptical at best.
In the comparatively showy role of Shigeko, Tomoko Nakajima stands clearly in the shadow of the memorable Haruko Sugimura who could show respect, pettiness and conniving in a realistically mercurial fashion. However, former teen heartthrob Satoshi Tsumabuki manages to convey a palpable figure out of the puppyish Shoji who loves his mother but remains shaped by his father's disappointment. Yu Aoi has the unenviable task of stepping into Hara's shoes, though her sympathetic likability gets her through her key final scene with Shukichi with surprising poignancy. It would have been unimaginable to conceive of an update that could approach the resonance of the original, and somehow Yamaha proves that point with his overly deliberate pacing. Still, certain scenes like the heartfelt bedside chat between Tomoko and Shoji, well played by Yoshiyuki and Tsumabuki, make this worthwhile for a once-through.