Perfect Days – Review

‘Perfect Days’ is a cinematic exploration of the beauty found in the mundane, directed by German filmmaker Wim Wenders. This film is a narrative about Hirayama, played by Koji Yakusho, a middle-aged man whose life is defined by his routines and solitary existence. Set in Tokyo, the story unfolds through Hirayama’s daily activities as a toilet cleaner, offering a contemplative look at life’s simple pleasures and inherent loneliness.

The film’s protagonist, Hirayama, is a man of few words but immense depth. His days begin without the jarring sound of an alarm but with the natural sounds of his environment. Meticulously, he prepares for his day, folding his bedding with precision, a symbol of the order that defines his life. His job as a toilet cleaner in Tokyo’s public restrooms is not just a means of livelihood but an extension of his personality. Dressed in a blue jumpsuit emblazoned with “The Tokyo Toilet”, Hirayama approaches his work with a Zen-like dedication, ensuring even the most hidden parts of the toilets are spotless. This portrayal by Yakusho is so compelling that it earned him the Best Actor prize at Cannes Film Festival.

The film’s setting, Tokyo, is more than just a backdrop; it is integral to the narrative. Wenders uses the bustling city and its diverse public restrooms to reflect Hirayama’s character – unassuming, orderly, and meticulous. Each restroom that Hirayama cleans is unique, mirroring the varied experiences of his otherwise repetitive life. Tokyo, with its mixture of modernity and tradition, complements Hirayama’s journey, highlighting the film’s central theme of finding beauty in everyday life.

Hirayama’s interactions with those around him add layers to the story. His colleague Takashi, portrayed by Tokio Emoto, provides a contrast to Hirayama’s quiet nature. Their exchanges are minimal but meaningful, offering glimpses into Hirayama’s character. Similarly, Hirayama’s hobbies, like photographing trees and listening to his collection of ’70s and ’80s cassette tapes, reveal his appreciation for the world’s finer details. These moments are not just fillers in the narrative; they are integral to understanding the protagonist’s psyche.

The film’s pace is deliberate, mirroring the protagonist’s life. Wenders is not in a hurry to tell the story. Instead, he allows the audience to immerse themselves in Hirayama’s world, to experience the tranquility and the monotony. The director’s choice of shots, often static, captures the stillness of Hirayama’s life. The cinematography is understated yet powerful, with each frame meticulously composed to reflect the film’s overall mood.

The narrative takes a turn with the arrival of Niko, Hirayama’s niece, portrayed by Arisa Nakano. Her presence in Hirayama’s life brings a subtle yet significant change. Through their interactions, the audience gets a glimpse into Hirayama’s past, his family dynamics, and perhaps the reasons behind his solitary life. This phase of the film is handled with sensitivity, avoiding melodrama or unnecessary exposition. The script, co-written by Wenders and Takuma Takasaki, remains light on dialogue, relying instead on the actors’ expressions and the visual storytelling to convey emotions and backstory.

‘Perfect Days’ also excels in its sound design. The ambient sounds of Tokyo, the sweeping of the streets, the clinking of cans in the vending machine, and the murmur of city life add a layer of authenticity to the film. The soundtrack, featuring artists like Lou Reed and the Rolling Stones, complements the narrative, enhancing the film’s nostalgic feel.

One of the film’s most striking aspects is its portrayal of loneliness and contentment. Hirayama’s life, though solitary, is not depicted as one of misery or despair. Instead, there is a sense of contentment in his routines. Yet, the film doesn’t shy away from exploring the underlying sense of longing and regret that accompanies such a life. This duality is masterfully captured by Yakusho, whose performance conveys a depth of emotion with minimal dialogue.

The film’s climax, without giving away spoilers, is both poignant and thought-provoking. It leaves the audience reflecting on the nature of happiness, the inevitability of change, and the beauty of life’s unremarkable moments. ‘Perfect Days’ doesn’t provide easy answers or a neatly wrapped conclusion; instead, it invites viewers to find their interpretations and meanings.

In conclusion, ‘Perfect Days’ is a testament to Wim Wenders’ skill as a filmmaker and Koji Yakusho’s talent as an actor. It is a film that celebrates the ordinary, finding poetry in the daily routines and small moments that make up a life. The film’s slow pace, minimalist narrative, and contemplative tone might not cater to all tastes, but for those who appreciate cinema that reflects on life’s quieter moments, ‘Perfect Days’ is a cinematic gem.

‘Perfect Days’ is not just a film; it’s an experience, a meditation on the rhythms of everyday life and the unspoken emotions that lie beneath the surface. It’s a reminder of the beauty that can be found in the most mundane of tasks and the profound impact of the simplest of interactions. This film is a must-watch for those who seek a deeper connection with the essence of life and the art of cinema.

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