This is my very favorite Ozu film and that is really saying something. Something about the combination of the music, the stately visuals, and the writing creates a kind of melancholy nostalgia in me for a place and time I have never seen.
Noriko Somiya (Setsuko Hara) is 27 years old and unmarried. She is just now recovering her health after years of wartime malnutrition and forced labor. She lives happily with her father Shukichi, a professor, doting on him and caring for his every need. Her aunt has decided that it is high time for Noriko to marry and has the ideal candidate picked out (he “looks like Gary Cooper”). The father agrees but Noriko resists. Privately, she says she can’t imagine how he can take care of himself without her.
So the father resorts to acting as if he has it in mind to remarry himself. This really upsets Noriko, who previously told another widower she thought remarriage “indecent”. But this push is what she needed and all’s well that ends well. The father bears his new loneliness with a sad resignation and dignity.
This very slight and seemingly happy story has me in tears throughout its final third every single time. There is a clear sense of the change going on in Japan in the subtext of the film. Evidence of the occupation appears in the strangest corners of the scenery and Noriko’s best friend is a divorcee and thoroughly modern stenographer. I guess change, even change for the better, is usually fraught with sadness and a letting go. Most highly recommended.
Clip – Some fatherly advice