‘Perfect Days’ movie review: Wim Wenders paints a charming portrait of simplicity in the rhythms of the everyday

Scene from Wim Wenders’ movie ‘Perfect Days’

Glimpses of Tokyo’s vibrant life form the backdrop for ‘Perfect Days,’ a film by Wim Wenders that garnered an Oscar nomination. Acclaimed actor Kōji Yakusho stars as Hirayama, who finds joy in the mundane as a diligent Tokyo restroom attendant. His character captures the essence of finding beauty in everyday tasks and interactions.

Yakusho’s Hirayama is a man of silence, yet his facial expressions and subdued actions reveal a profound depth and a warm-hearted nature. His interactions with others highlight his affection and humanity that belie his seemingly gruff façade.

Perfect Days (Japanese)

Director: Wim Wenders

Cast: Kōji Yakusho, Tokio Emoto, Arisa Nakano, Aoi Yamada

Runtime: 125 minutes

Storyline: Hirayama’s simple life, centered around his work as a Tokyo toilet cleaner, unfolds as he encounters beauty in unexpected places.

Hirayama personifies devotion to routine, and Wenders conveys this through a documentary-like authenticity that captures the viewer. His devotion to cleaning Tokyo’s artistic public bathrooms is highlighted, showcasing his meticulous pride in his profession.

Hirayama values his contemplative moments, whether basking in the sun’s filtered rays or enjoying a peaceful nap. These tranquil scenes become the emotive core of the film, painting the portrait of a man who finds comfort in life’s simplicity. As portrayed by Yakusho, Hirayama becomes a relatable figure, inviting viewers to join in his quiet moments, from enjoying a sandwich in solitude on a park bench to exchanging fleeting moments with acquaintances.

Kōji Yakusho in ‘Perfect Days’

Kōji Yakusho portrays Hirayama in ‘Perfect Days’

The film is visually entrancing, with evocative shots that bring Tokyo’s urban environment to life. Each carefully composed scene is an ode to the bustling metropolis, capturing the city’s dynamic aura and Hirayama’s own personal spaces with a poetic flair.

Wenders deftly uses contrasts of light and shade to enhance the film’s narrative, celebrating the allure of the commonplace. Deeply exploring themes of memory, isolation, and time’s progression, we see connection through Hirayama’s introspective dream sequences, which feature people from his life as fleeting shadows.

The poignancy of the film hits its peak with Yakusho’s character confrontation with loneliness, subtly showcased throughout the movie until his emotional goodbye to his sister and niece. This powerful moment strips away his facade of resilience and exposes the depth of his solitude.

The film concludes with a striking scene that leaves an indelible mark, pairing Yakusho’s tearful yet smiling Hirayama with Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” in the background, emphasizing his inner turmoil amidst a seemingly serene departure.

Perfect Days takes us on a journey through hope and longing, delicately unveiling the magic tucked within ordinary moments. It portrays the solace found in routine and leaving one’s mark softly upon the world. It’s a mixture of soft smiles and nostalgia, that lingers long after the credits end. Through the hubbub of Tokyo, the film whispers a reminder: true perfection is nestled in the gentle cadence of everyday life, urging us to savor each moment like it’s our last.

Perfect Days is available for streaming on MUBI.

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