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DVD Review: Tokyo Sonata

May 4, 2010

Tokyo Sonata – A E1 Films’ Release

DVD Release Date: May 4th, 2010

Rated PG for violence and disturbing content

Running time: 115 minutes


Kiyoshi Kurosawa (dir.)


Kiyoshi Kurosawa (screenplay)

Max Mannix (writer)

Sachiko Tanaka (screenplay)


Kazumasa Hashimoto (music)


Teruyuki Kagawa as Ryûhei Sasaki

Kyôko Koizumi as Megumi Sasaki

Yû Koyanagi as Takashi Sasaki

Inowaki Kai as Kenji Sasaki


Our reviews below:


Tokyo Sonata DVD Review By John C.

***1/2 (out of 4)

Tokyo Sonata is the story of a family in Japan.  The father loses his job, and feels he needs to pretend he is still working, the elder son wants to go fight with the American military, and the younger son is secretly taking piano lessons.  The mother stays at home, and is the one constant as she greets them coming in the door.


Tokyo Sonata is a fascinating social study, and a timely film about the loss of jobs, and how the humility can effect a whole family.  40 minutes from the end, the film descends into madness.  25 minutes later, it returns to normality as best it can, and ends perfectly with a beautiful, touching scene.  But all I could wonder was, would we have ever gotten to this point had theses characters lives not veered so dangerously off course?  This is a film highly worth watching on DVD.


The DVD includes approximately 98 minutes of bonus material, including a making-of featurette, footage from the theatrical premiere, and Q&As with the director, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, and cast.


Tokyo Sonata DVD Review By Erin V.

***3/4 (out of 4)

You’d be hard-pressed to find an American film that plays out as quietly and strangely as Tokyo Sonata.  The story is of a family of four in Japan.  When the father loses his job, he does not want the shame of having to tell his family, so goes about still pretending to be a businessman.  His wife has figured it out though, and his secret begins to take its toll on her.  Meanwhile, their eldest son wants to join the American military, and their youngest to take piano lessons – both which their father forbids.  As the family tries to hold things together as they were, they drift further apart in their fear of being open with each other.


By the third act of the film, everything has fallen into disarray, with each of them ‘running off’ so to speak in different directions, as though if they’ve ever any hope of togetherness again, they first must hit rock bottom on their own.  This is a film that you have to trust and stay with, and ride along to its resolution.


Tokyo Sonata is a touching and beautiful film, about family and the need to support, rather than be against (directly or indirectly) each other.  It’s strange at times, but good, and although two hours long, this is one worth seeing.


Tokyo Sonata DVD Review By Nicole

***1/2 (out of 4)

Tokyo Sonata is a believable and sincere low key drama about one family’s struggle during the recent recession.  When Ryuhei, a father of two, is laid off from his job, he is afraid to let anyone, especially his wife and kids, know what is going on.  So he continues to dress in a suit, while he secretly visits soup kitchens and employment agencies.  His younger son, Kenji, can’t figure out why his father won’t let him take piano lessons.  So he uses his lunch money to secretly take lessons after school.  Meanwhile the older son wants to join the American army, as he can find no employment in Japan.  As time goes on, the family’s secrets only grow, until everyone hits rock bottom.  At this point, the secrets come out.  Only then can the family’s situation improve.


Tokyo Sonata tells a story that, while taking place in Japan, is something that anyone, anywhere, can relate to.  In a culture where everyone wants to be successful, and feels ashamed when one has difficulties, Tokyo Sonata illustrates the importance of families being there for each other.  With heartfelt performances from the cast, as well as a believable script, as well as a good message.  Tokyo Sonata is one that you will definitely want to add to our collection.


Tokyo Sonata DVD Review By Maureen

***1/2 (out of 4)

Tokyo Sonata tells the universal story of families coping with job loss through a distinctly Japanese cultural point of view.  A very traditional Japanese family has their world turned upside down when the father, Ryuhei is downsized from his corporate job.  Ashamed and unaware what to do, Ryuhei hides his job loss from his stay-at-home wife and two sons by getting dressed in his business suit everyday and pretending to be at work.  The pretence becomes harder to maintain and the stress takes its toll.  The older son Takashi, decides to go and join the U.S. army and the younger son, Kenji becomes secretive, hiding the fact that he is taking piano lessons with his monthly lunch allowance.  Each member of the family reaches their own rock bottom and the third act of the film becomes suspenseful as several scary events take place threatening to finally divide the family.


This is a really nicely done film.  Even at two hours, it never becomes tiring listening to the Japanese dialogue and reading English subtitles.  The acting is excellent and the mood low key and evenly paced.  Even when the storyline takes a darker turn towards the end it resolves itself in a satisfying way.  Having the beautiful Debussy piano piece, Claire de Lune, played in its entirety at the end gives the viewer the sense that the family will be okay and find peace within themselves and each other.


Tokyo Sonata is a timely and well-made film that fans of foreign film will want to check out on DVD.


Tokyo Sonata DVD Review By Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

Tôkyô Sonata begins with the downsizing of Sasaki-san from his middle-management position.  Like many others, he tries to hide this from everyone including his wife and two sons, leading to increasing alienation all around.  The elder son goes off to war alongside the Americans, the younger son, gifted at the piano, takes secret lessons against his father’s wishes, and the wife struggles with her own temptation to start over.  In the last third of the film a whirlwind of events leads to a lyrical conclusion.  With a strong script and cast under Kiyoshi Kurosawa it is highly recommended.


Consensus: Tokyo Sonata is a touching portrait of a family going through a rough time, told from a distinct Japanese point of view.  Though the film does get strange in its third act, this all leads to a beautiful final scene. ***1/2 (Out of 4)

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