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Tokyo Sonata: A Family of Change

9 May

A somewhat obscure film, Tokyo Sonata was recently released on DVD this past week. Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, it’s a story about a seemingly typical middle class Japanese family. But appearances are only skin deep, and as the plot opens up, we discover that this typical family has a myriad of problems tearing at the fabric keeping the mother, father, and their 2 sons together. We witness a family trying to cope with a series of unexpected events, and ultimately break down under the pressure, only to redeem themselves through their own means.

After the father; Ryuhei Sasaki loses his job due to a downsizing economy, things for the family only spiral out of control from that point. The film could be an accurate depiction of the 90’s in Japan, with parallels to so many during that time. The so called ‘lost decade’ in which Japan’s economy suffered greatly, the plunging value of the yen combined with record unemployment rates forced many families into similar situations as the Sasaki’s.

More recently this storyline resonates with a different audience as well, as western countries around the globe suffered during the recent economic squeeze. Families across North America might be able to relate to the hurtles the Sasaki family is pushed through. From their son Kenji’s secret passion for the piano, to Megumi’s outstretched arms asking to be helped up only to be answered by no one, the film is filled with painful scenes of a family in turmoil.

Failing to fall into any genre, Tokyo Sonata pushes the envelope of family drama, and evolves into one of the most beautiful films I have seen in a while. The final scene in which the family learns to accept change as Kenji plays out Claire de Lune by Debussy makes this film worth watching all on its own.

So take a moment to watch this film, and watch it as it as any foreign film should be viewed, with english subtitles. US trailer below: