Tokyo Sonata film review

Haruka Igawa in Tokyo Sonata
Haruka Igawa in Tokyo Sonata

Kiyoshi Kurosawa – known for atmospheric thrillers like 2003’s Doppelganger, as well as satisfying and thought-provoking horrors like Pulse and Sakebi (Retribution) – brings his unique ability to disturb and captivate us at the same time, to the film Tokyo Sonata, the portrait of a seemingly ordinary Japanese family, that slowly chips away at its porcelain surface, to reveal an unnerving and revealing truth about their disjointed lives.

The father Ryûhei Sasaki (Teruyuki Kagawa) has abruptly lost his job to a younger man, and goes home to act as if nothing has happened. His eldest son Takashi (Yu Koyanagi) enlists in the U.S. Army, to serve in the Iraq occupation, just to get away from home. The youngest son Kenji (Inowaki Kai) takes his lunch money to begin taking piano lessons, against his father’s wishes and principals. The dedicated mom Megumi (Kyoko Koizumi), struggles to keep her family together, but ultimately tires of doing so because of repeated psychological traumas.

At one point, Megumi’s out running errands and witnesses her husband waiting in a soup-kitchen line for the unemployed, but won’t embarrass him by saying a word to her children nor to her husband. As Tokyo Sonata progresses, and the layers of their family begin to loosen and crumble, that steadfast dedication softens, in deep and volatile ways, as a single, unforeseeable chasm appears within the family, threatening to completely tear them apart.

Finally, all of their traditions get turned on their heads, when Kenji reveals his love of piano, only to be met with his father’s angry reaction to Kenji’s disobedience, which smashes any possibility of pride in his son’s talent. Then, as Ryuhei and Megumi almost embrace their breaking points with hopes of some kind of resolution, Ryuhei finds a cache of hidden drug money, and Megumi encounters a burglar (played by Kurosawa regular Kôji Yakusho) who kidnaps her, threatens her, and is then asked to run away with her.

Tokyo Sonata resonates with simmering drama, that almost gets sacked by the crime thriller elements that take this struggling family to limits that will make viewers experience a series of emotions.

Tokyo Sonata was released exclusively in New York City on March 13th, 2009 and will be getting a staggered U.S. release in major cities including Seattle, Santa Fe, Honolulu, Philly, Chicago and Minneapolis, beginning March 27th.

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Producers: Yukie Kito, Wouter Barendrecht
Cast: Teruyuki Kagawa, Kyoko Koizumi, Yu Koyanagi, Kai Inowaki, Haruka Igawa, Kanji Tsuda, Koji Yakusho

Find out more about Tokyo Sonata at the film’s official website