Tokyo Sonata

Posted by schnolis on May 6th, 2009 filed in Reviews

TOKYO SONATAOur lives move inexorably forward, the cumulative outcome of thousands of choices intersecting thousands of random events. Mostly we forget a decision as soon as it’s made, like what we eat for lunch, or which road to take to the store. Our minds become freed up to begin deliberating the next option. But are those decisions permanent? Is the rest of our life destined to follow that branch all the way to the end? And what happens when a random event derails us from that course?

Ryuhei Sasaki (Teruyuki Kagawa) in Tokyo Sonata learns the hard way the extent of control of his destiny when he gets laid off from his administrative management position. His depatment is relocating out of town, forcing him to leave or move to another position. When asked, though, he cannot name enough skills or abilities to justify himself in another role. Shame prevents Ryûhei from telling his wife Megumi (Kyôko Koizumi). Instead he leaves for work every morning only to wait in the park for a charitable lunch between sessions of looking for other employment.

While this is going on, Megumi struggles to keep her family together at home. Their older son Takashi (Yu Koyanagi) has been gone most of the time and the younger Kenji (Inowaki Kai) is quiet and uninspired. Takashi worries about not finding respectible work and decides to enlist as a foreign soldier in the United States Army. Takashi is bored in school and torments a teacher to channel his energy. One day coming home from school he sees a beautiful piano teacher and tries to convince his father to let him take piano lessons. When he is refused, he uses his lunch money for lessons instead, practicing on a broken and silent electric piano he found abandoned in the trash. Neither boy is aware that their father has lost his job.

Ryuhei sees his family coming apart, and takes all the blame squarely on himself. He tries to assert is authority, usually with screaming and sometimes with violence. The family is slowly and usually silently tearing apart. Ryuhei doesn’t adjust to the situation, and his family resent him for it. Each character then undergoes some dramatic event or happening that forces each one to re-evaluate their lives and their choices. At this moment the film goes to a transcendent, almost magical place that is both sublime and inspirational.

What I liked: Deep characters going through very challenging times. They don’t always deal with these moments well. Families are resilient, though, and this one is no exception. A quirky story about honor, love, responsibility, and the choices we make. The understanding that no matter how well things might be working out, you can never stop making choices.

What I disliked: Some of the cultural issues I have a problem with. It is probably a cultural or personal bias, but I have difficulty understanding how anyone could not tell his spouse he lost his job, especially when he was the only source of income. I think the story of the older son got dropped, and I would have liked to have seen that resolved.

Rating: 9 of 10

Leave a Comment