Tokyo Tower: Mom and Me, and Sometimes Dad (Tôkyô tawâ: Okan to boku to, tokidoki, oton) will warm your heart and tug at your heartstrings. The winner of the best film award at the Japanese Academy Awards as well as winning a host of others, is a slow-burning and detailed family drama. It’s also the modest story of a mother and son’s love for each other as they live through laughter, joy, sorrow and sacrifice.
The film is based on the best-selling, autobiographical book of the same name by Lily Franky (also known as Masaya Nakagawa and Rirî Furankî) and is directed by Joji Matsuoka. It begins by showing Masawa Nakagawa as a boy as he witnesses his Mum, Eiko (the younger one played by Yayako Uchida) being beaten up by his alcoholic father (Kaoru Kobayashi). Eiko decides to leave her husband and take their son to live in the rural mining town, Kyushu. It is here that Masawa enjoys a relatively normal childhood while his strong mother works hard to make ends meet.
When Masawa (the older one played by Jô Odagiri) finishes school he decides to go to Tokyo to study art. He is joined by a school friend and it is in this environment that Masawa shows the irresponsible and reckless side he has inherited from his father. Despite this, his mother (the elder one played by Kirin Kiki who is Uchida’s actual mum) still toils away, sacrificing and sending him money. Eventually, he does come to the realisation that he needs to grow up, stop borrowing money from loan sharks and taking advantage of his Mum.
Eiko reveals she has throat cancer but does go into remission. She also tells Masawa that she needs a place to stay. She goes to live in Tokyo with him and discovers that Masawa has become a responsible adult and is working as a fledgling illustrator and radio personality. Kirin Kiki is a stand-out in her role as the family matriarch. She effortlessly shows emotion, heart and sentimentality in the more thought-provoking scenes and also offers up a real sense of humour and light-heartedness in other scenes (especially when she is impersonating Masawa’s grandmother).
Tokyo Tower: Mom and Me, and Sometimes Dad is a simple, coming-of-age drama told through a series of flashbacks and scenes set in the present. It is a nuanced affair brimming with excellent performances, warm music and detailed characterisations that show domestic interludes as well as emotional moments. Despite periods of melancholy and sombreness, Tokyo Tower manages to find the right balance between lightness and darkness to ultimately be a quaint and endearing existential family drama that will touch you through its sincere approach to one mother and son’s relationship.
Originally published on 13 July 2014 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/2014/07/13/film-review-tokyo-tower-mom-me-sometimes-dad-tokyo-tawa-okan-to-boku-to-tokidoki-oton-japan-2007/
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