Mother

Kinuyo Tanaka is an understated tragedian in keeping with this film of enormous losses treated almost casually, a film of non-incident laced with much incidental humor. The story of a mother trying to make a go of the family dry-cleaning business following the death of her husband is told through the eyes of her adoring teenage daughter, played by the bright and sensitive teenage actress Kyoko Kagawa. There is a whole genre in Japan devoted to “mother” movies (haha-mono), but Naruse sidesteps sentimentality; set in the homes and streets of a Tokyo suburb, this is slice-of-life. The passing of time, with its untimely deaths, is only insinuated in dialogue; as always, Naruse's approach to women's sacrifice is astringent and complex (though bringing a hankie would not be amiss). Mother was the first Japanese film to be released in Europe, where it was inevitably compared with the Italian neorealist works that had recently emerged.

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