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In ‘Tokyo Sonata’, Kiyoshi Kurosawa—acclaimed master of the slow burning psychological horror—turns his attention instead to “Gendai-geki” (films dealing with contemporary life). A portrait of a seemingly ordinary Japanese family, the film follows hard working husband Ryuhei, his dutiful wife Megumi and their two sons, Kenji and Takashi.
Ryuhei becomes a victim of ‘downsizing’ when his job is outsourced to China. Ashamed, he does his best to maintain his appearance as family head and primary breadwinner by leaving the house every morning, briefcase in hand, to spend his days in the park with other salary men who are ‘in between’ jobs. In his absence, the other members of the family live their own deceptions with his youngest son secretly taking piano lessons and his eldest joining the U.S. military, convincing his mother to sign the papers without telling his father.
At its heart, 'Tokyo Sonata' is about the discomfort that arises when humans cannot honestly express the emotions they experience, as each person struggles to find freedom and fulfilment in what has become a life of overwhelming structure and rules. Aesthetically, it is nothing short of outstanding. As always, Kurosawa masterfully controls his film’s framing and sound design, and his handling of the family’s dynamic challenges viewers to contemplate how societal standards might be shaping our own behavior.