Although the general tone is humor (Japanese, then different, sometimes untranslatable), there are also tears and love: Yamada distills with sake the melancholy of the passing of time, and strains and loosens family ties and old friendships.
Text - José María Garrido
Summer of a Tokyo family
Director: Yôji Yamada
Screenplay: Emiko Hiramatsu and Yôji Yamada
Yôji Yamada is a veteran Japanese director, prolific and internationally acclaimed. For two decades, 1969 to 1989, he released two films a year with the sentimental adventures of the kindly vagabond Tora-san. He did not stop until the death of the lead actor, Kiyoshi Atsumi. At 86, Yamada continues to direct at an almost annual pace and knows how to exploit stories with similar plots. In the latest film, Summer of a Tokyo Family, he prolongs the comedy of Wonderful Tokyo Family (2016), repeating actors and characters, although the action is triggered and muddled by a seemingly anodyne affair: the grandfather of the Hirata family is no longer fit to drive... and he doesn't want to quit!
While grandma goes off with some friends to Northern Europe to see an aurora borealis, grandpa enjoys his free time plans, driving happily, but also bordering on recklessness and the car's bodywork. The three sons want to take away his license and don't dare. Between doubts and failed attempts, the curmudgeon feels misunderstood and makes it known with all kinds of fuss. The story gets complicated when the children call a family meeting to settle the problem, because the house where three generations live together will become something like the Marx Brothers' cabin.
Although the general tone is humor (Japanese, then different, sometimes untranslatable), there are also tears and love: Yamada distills with sake the melancholy of the passing of time, and strains and loosens family ties and old friendships, with memories and feelings that make life more interesting and beautiful. We see the nuances in each couple, more or less mature or excited about life, and the reward of ties. As for the performances, apart from the grandmother - almost absent due to the imperative of the script - and the two little pizza-snackers somewhat caricatured, the rest of the characters open their hearts to us well in the course of the dialogues and that oriental calm that when accelerated is more unusual. In the meantime, perhaps a conversation sows a seed for the next season of the Tokyo family.
Just a final clarification: the two films mentioned above are not a continuation -despite the coincidences of title, actors and characters- of the temperate plot of A Tokyo Family (2013), a beauty by Yamada that many compare to Ozu's classic Tokyo Tales. All are worth seeing.