Yasujiro Ozu's most widely distributed and best-known film presents the story of an elderly couple in post World War II Japan who come to Tokyo to visit their various children and realize that the family has essentially fallen apart. The couple is received coldly by their two modernized children and only their widowed daughter-in-law seems glad to see them. The children shuttle their aging parents off to a health spa in an attempt to get them out of the way. They learn later that the mother has fallen ill upon her return and arrive too late to say their good-byes.
The Japanese family's transformation by modern, Western culture formed the core theme of director Ozu's work, and this motif is crystallized in an exquisite, intimate story of alienation and reconciliation in TOKYO STORY. An aging couple, living in retirement in rural Japan, decide to visit their married children in the bustling metropolis of post-war Tokyo. But once they arrive, they find that the children no longer have room for them in their busy lives. Shuffling their parents back and forth between each of their houses the couple is eventually shipped off to a health spa. Only the couple's daughter-in-law, widow of their son who died in the war, shows them any kindness. The parents return home lonely and disillusioned, and the mother soon falls sick. The children arrive too late, and have lost their chance to make any reconciliation. The patterns of movement, dialogue and nature combine with a scrupulous attention to character under Ozu's masterful eye and create a subtle yet overwhelmingly emotional drama.
For many years this was the only one of Yasujiro Ozu's fifty-three feature films to be shown in the West. Traditionally, the critical appraisal of Ozu's work, as established in western countries, has been tied to evaluations of the success, or failure, of this one film. Of the many films he directed, Ozu lists TOKYO STORY as one of his personal favorites. He also describes it as his "most melodramatic" movie. The film's story is based on screenwriter Kogo Noda's recollections of the Leo McCarey film, MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW--a movie that similarly examines the emotional consequences of inter-generational conflict.
"Yasujiro Ozu created quiet epics that dealt purely and without stylistic fuss about what really matters....A masterpiece..." - 11/07/2003 USA Today, p.8E
"[O]ne of the greatest films of all time." - 11/09/2003 Chicago Sun-Times, p.3
"[T]he experience of watching Ozu's masterpieces reveals an artist whose allegiances are strikingly diverse." - 03/01/2005 Sight and Sound, p.87