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Review: 'Tokyo Sonata'

Director Kurosawa's bleak tale of a Japanese family unraveling after the father loses his job is painstakingly observed – and scary.

By Peter Rainer / March 14, 2009

Actor Teruyuki Kagawa plays a family man who loses his job and, rather than tell his dutiful wife, pretends to go to work each day while covertly racking up going-nowhere job interviews.

Courtesy of Regent Releasing

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Kiyoshi Kurosawa has a vaunted reputation as a horror movie auteur and "Tokyo Sonata," while it dispenses with the standard baggage of fright films, is scary, too. It's about a family man, Ryuhei Sasaki (Teruyuki Kagawa), who loses his job and, rather than tell his dutiful wife (Kyoko Koizumi) and unruly sons, pretends to go to work each day while covertly racking up going-nowhere job interviews. This is a premise familiar from Laurent Cantet's masterpiece "Time Out," but Kurosawa puts his own spin on it. Ryuhei, who had been a corporate drone, eventually becomes a mall janitor, all the while attempting, not entirely successfully, to keep everything a secret. The youngest son (Inowaki Kai) is a highly gifted pianist who, because his father disapproves, carries on his own subterfuge – he takes lessons on the sly. A disconcerting melange, "Tokyo Sonata" begins rather conventionally before spinning into black comic, almost fantastical, terrain. Grade: B (Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language.)

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