Saturday, August 19, 2023

The Only Son (Japan, 1936)

This film talks about a poor widow and her son. At first the mother couldn't really afford the son to continue with his education. However, her son had a teacher who really encouraged her to make her son to keep on studying. But to do it, the mother would need to send her son away to Tokyo because they lived in a small city. She would need to send him to Tokyo and pay for his education, which was too much for her because it was a really poor family. However, she realized that the boys of the neighborhood were going to Tokyo to have an education and she didn't want her son to miss an opportunity, so she made all the sacrifices possible, she struggled so her son could have an education in Tokyo. Many years have passed and her son was now 27 years old and then she decided to visit him there by surprise.

And when she arrived in Tokyo, she realized that her son wasn't as successful as she imagined. At first, she was scared, not necessarily with the city, but with the neighborhood where he lived, which was really poor, and she also got to know that her son was married and had a baby son of his own. And of course she was in shock because she imagined that her son would study and be successful. And the son, he was happy to see his mother, of course, but he was extremely sad that his mom saw him in this situation. He would rather her to visit him later when he had a better financial situation.

The son’s wife was a really good person. She treated his mother as it was her own mother. She was very gentle with her. The son treated his mom wonderfully too. He tried to borrow money from other people, so he could take his mom to places. But, of course, that she couldn't disguise the fact that she was disappointed. The son talked to his mom in private and confronted her about it. And he said that he knew that she was very disappointed, that he did everything he could, that he was aware of how much she suffered to pay for his education, that he tried his best to honor all her effort. But Tokyo is a very populated and big city, competition was wild, that he wanted to be more than a night school teacher. Then the mother said that he shouldn't give up so easily, he was still young, his life was just beginning, and he shouldn't act like a coward, that he should keep on trying to improve his situation, he was still young, he had the means.

And then when they talked about the same subject again at night, his wife overheard everything and started crying. And she was feeling very bad that her mother-in-law was in this situation, sad all day long, taking care of her grandson. And then she decided to do something. She sold her kimono and gave the money to her husband so he could afford taking his mother to places, to go out with her so at least she could cheer up a little bit. And they planned to do just that. The entire family would go out, take his mother to no more corners of Tokyo. However, a boy of the neighborhood had an accident with a horse and he needed to go to the hospital.

Then the elderly mother's son took the boy to the hospital and even helped his mother with some pocket money for the expenses because his son didn't have anything serious in the accident but he broke her leg so he would need some care and it would be difficult for her because she was very poor too. After a while, when they left the hospital, the son told the mother that this event ruined all the plans that he had for today. He intended to go out with her, to do things together, but this accident, it destroyed everything. Then the mother told him that she was proud of him because when you very poor, the generosity of other people make you feel so grateful and that she knew how the neighbor felt because she was very poor too and she said that it was much better that her son had helped the neighbor than going out with her that it would be the best memory she would have from her time in Tokyo.

When they were talking about the financial situation of the son, she confessed to him that she had to sell her house to pay for his education and that she was sleeping in the dormitory of her workplace, but that he shouldn't need about her, that she doesn't care about the housing or anything. All she cares about is that he study hard and then improve his financial situation. After the mother left and returned for her city, the son told his wife that he would return to school and try to specialize to give classes to college students, so he would earn more money, because his son, his baby son, wouldn't be a baby forever and he would need money.

We can see in the beginning of the film that the elderly mother returned to her village. And when her friend asked about Tokyo and about her son, she said that Tokyo was beautiful, that her son was well, that he became a great man. So she said good things about her son, that he found a good wife. She really liked his wife very much, but we could see on her face that she was extremely sad because she thought her son would be more successful. The plot of this film is very universal because parents always want their children to have a better situation than they have. They always want the best for their children. And when they realize that their children didn't do as well as they expected of course that they feel sad.

On the other hand, she could recognize that her son was a very nice boy, who had a nice wife, a nice family, who never did anything wrong, never stole from anyone. She also saw that the teacher of her son, who also went to Tokyo, instead of still being a teacher, he was working in a restaurant frying food. So, things were very difficult for his former teacher too. So it wasn't only her son was struggling. And that competition in a big city is indeed very bad. But she had the highest expectations about her son because he was everything she had in life. And unfortunately, it wasn't as she imagined and it's a very touching film, even sad, but it's a plot that never gets old, it's delicate as Ozu's films usually are. It is one of the few Ozu’s films were his sentimentality is openly shown, in contract to most of his films, where it is more covered.

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