Kiyoshi Kurosawa is known primarily in the West for his horror films. Tokyo Sonata (2008) represents a departure; ghosts and serial killers give way to the domestic horror of the shit-canned salaryman. Seems the company is moving his division to China, so our man Ryu Sasaki (Teruyuki Kagawa) does the usual thing: He keeps putting on the suit and pretends to go to work every day. Really, he heads down to the park where the homeless guys hang out and lines up for a bowl of bad rice porridge. How long can he keep up the charade?
Tokyo Sonata revolves around a familiar theme in contemporary Japanese cinema, that of the disintegrating family. And very often, the family is seen as a microcosm of the country. The sense that the society is falling apart at the seams is palpable in this film, it’s ultimate representative being the inept housebreaker played by Kiyoshi Kurosawa mainstay Koji Yakusho. Elsewhere, Sasakis’ teenage son, who wants to join the U.S. military, is another example of a lost soul; to the Japanese, such a life choice would be considered extremely bizarre. Throw in a disillusioned mom and a troubled yet musically gifted son, and we’re off on our harrowing downward spiral toward redemption.
Tokyo Sonata isn’t a particularly profound film; frankly, it starts to lose its way around the 1:10 point. But the subject matter, characters and quality of filmmaking keep you involved to the end, and for anyone who likes films set in the gritty, unflattering reality of Tokyo, it’s more than satisfying.