Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
A widow brings her son to Tokyo to live with her brother, then on their first night in their new home she tells the boy that she is going away. The only job she could get to support them is at a ryokan, a type of hotel spa in which women serve drinks and keep company with the male guests and, as is very subtly implied, attend to a little more than that. Our sympathetic young hero bravely struggles to catch up with the rhythm of the big city and can’t at first get in with the local boys, then befriends a little girl whose mother also works at the same spa where his mother does. His aunt and uncle run their modest grocery store and he works as their delivery boy, trying to find some kind of normality to life while the murmur of sorrow of his situation with his parents lies just beneath the surface the whole time. Something of a Japanese answer to The 400 Blows, this film is harsh about the pain of its main character’s life but relates it with a beautiful sensitivity that feels both honest and forgiving. Director Mikio Naruse manages to put across all the ways that these characters hurt each other without encouraging us to see any of them as monsters, then gives us an ending that avoids comforting resolutions but still feels satisfying.