The 100 Best Contemporary Japanese Movies - Psycho Drama is launching an ambitious yet invigorating project to compile 100 of the best modern-day Japanese movies from the last 2 decades or so - that features the best young actors of their generation - from Joe Odagiri, Takako Matsu and Tadanobu Asano, to Satoshi Tsumabuki, Hikari Mitsushima, Mao Inoue, Ryuhei Matsuda, Shun Oguri and Masanabu Ando to the current crop of exciting young talents - Shota Sometani, Yuya Yagira, Kamiki Ryunosuke, Fumi Nikaido and Ai Hashimoto.
After watching Tokyo Tower: Mom and Me, and Sometimes Dad, I immediately googled for the latest reviews and photos, and really find it amusing to read one critic who said:
As a film that balances old-fashioned storytelling with unusual humor, Tokyo Tower deserves more than its "just another adaptation" label. It may not be the most touching version of the story, but if you at least feel the impulse to pick up the phone and call your mother after watching it, then it was successful enough. [ source ]
I was amused because I was a total wreck after watching it. I have no idea how anybody else could not be affected by the sheer emotional impact of Kirin Kiki and Joe Odagiri's performances and of the story. Unlike the reviewer above, I have no Mom to call because she's already dead. Movies are said to be reflections of our lives, and this one cannot be more appropriate an example for me.
What the Movie is all about: Leaving her alcoholic husband, Eiko takes their son Masaya away and back to her hometown in a Kyushu rural mining community. She toils to support him though many years of schooling even after he wastes his time while studying art in a Tokyo university. After graduation he struggles to find work and finally pulls his life together for his mother's sake, ultimately ending up with multiple jobs as an illustrator and even as the host of a sexually-themed talk show on radio. When Eiko becomes ill with cancer, Masaya invites her to live with him in back in Tokyo where the roles of support are reversed.
Before my review, I watched Joe Odagiri at CNN and he said he prefered acting roles that are different and not mainstream at all:
Well, I think I am imperfect. And every one of us thinks, "I am imperfect". As I know how flawed I am, I'm drawn to characters exuding such human foibles. It's probably because I empathize with them, or they have flaws that I have. I can be good at playing the part. It might be out of my confidence that I can make the best use of what I have for this character. Well, I guess, because I have many things that I feel inferior about, I choose those strange roles. [ source ]
I find this to be a contradiction of sorts, because he's very confident when it comes to his physique and his fashion sense. But I guess, he's using his perspective of himself as a method actor. This movie got me interested in watching more of Mr. Odagiri. It was also reported that he was a "peculiar choice" to play the role since he is not the ideal, or typical Japanese son, whatever that means. But I really felt he did the role justice. It was actually his 'peculiarity' that made the performance heartfelt and genuine.
I've watched Kirin Kiki in Villain already and is not surprised by the sheer power of her acting. It was discovering that her own daughter (Yayako Uchida) who portrayed the younger Mom that got me suprised. Like mother like daughter, they both made sure they portrayed a character who is independent-minded, strong-willed and loving. Both gave bravurah performances!
The movie's spotlight is not limited to a coming of age for Boku (Joe Odagiri) who were shown to live an ordinary yet eventful life, but a celebration of love between mother and son. The emotional attachment between Boku and Okan was strengthened when Okan left her husband. The movie jumps from the past and zooms in to the present at a very comfortable speed, that you get to know the characters really well. From the time Boku left his mother to study high school, Okan (Kirin Kiki) did her best to make sure her son never fails.
As the ultimate sacrifice, she spent all her savings for his education, and when the twilight years of her life comes it was her son who took her into his care. If we are to shift the setting into a Western country like the United States, the Mom would be on foster care, nursed by some unknown caretaker who may or may not have her best interest. Lucky are those who live the last years of their lives together with their love ones. I'm not saying We need to change how we look after the old generation, but the message of the movie is more of what we ought to do when it comes to family.
Lastly, let me quote the last message left by Okan, contained in the box which was to be opened upon her death:
Thank you for all these years I so enjoyed living in Tokyo
I failed in my marriage but I was blessed with a sweet son
So I can die happy
You were a sickly boy and cried a lot
So when I prayed to the gods it was first for your health
and also that you live with an open heart
As you grew up your health still came first
but also business success these days I am greedy
and pray for you and your girlfiend's safety
She really felt like my own daughter
She made me so happy
Calling me mother, mother
Like she really meant it
I'm so very fortunate to be able to bid goodbye
to life in a state of happiness
Good bye, Ma
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Have you watched Tokyo Tower already? What can you say about the movie? Let us know what you think!
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