Tokyo Sonata (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner28/01/2009

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 119 mins

Emotionally engaging, well acted and impressively directed, this is an eerily prescient Japanese drama that springs several narrative surprises and deservedly won the Un Certain Regard award at Cannes.

What's it all about?
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Tokyo Sonata stars Teruyuki Kagawa as Ryuhei Sasaki, an office worker who's unexpectedly made redundant. Crippled with shame, he decides not to tell his wife, Megumi (Kyoko Koizumi) or his two sons (Yu Koyanagi as Takashi and Kai Inowaki as Kenji) and instead leaves home with an empty briefcase every morning and spends the days looking for work or lining up for free soup with the homeless.

Things take a surreal turn when Ryuhei meets an old friend (Kanji Tsuda as Kurosu) in exactly the same situation and the two start hanging out together, with Kurosu teaching Ryuhei several useful tips, such as setting your phone to ring you five times an hour so you look busy, or the fact that you can stay at the public library all day without getting thrown out. Meanwhile, elder son Takashi announces that he's going to join the U.S. Army, Megumi accidentally discovers her husband's deception but runs into problems of her own and younger son Kenji begins secretly spending his lunch money on piano lessons after his father angrily forbids them.

The Good
Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa was previously best known as a horror director (notably 1998's Cure and 2001's Pulse), so Tokyo Sonata took both critics and audiences by surprise when it deservedly won the Un Certain Regard award in Cannes last year. Since then, the film has also acquired an eerie prescience, since it is essentially about the impending horror of the credit crunch.

The Great
The performances are excellent, particularly Kai Inowaki, who almost steals the entire film as the sensitive Kenji. In addition, the emotionally engaging script is laced with dark humour and takes some completely unexpected turns, so you're never quite sure what to expect.

Worth seeing?
Tokyo Sonata is a superbly written, impressively directed and brilliantly acted drama that is simultaneously chilling, darkly funny and genuinely moving. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

Tokyo Sonata (12A)
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Content updated: 19/10/2017 10:09

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