While he's perhaps best known for directing the original Pulse, Kiyoshi Kurosawa's new film, Tokyo Sonata, is an unexpected pleasure -- not only because it's a departure from the J-horror films that made his name, but because it's also a startlingly rich, funny and strong drama, without a hint of the supernatural or unearthly. That's not to say it's not exciting, or scary or startling, but rather to say that it concerns itself with normal, average (which is hardly normal, and rarely average) life as its main concern. Ryhuei (Teruyuki Kagawa) is a chief administrator in a medical-supplies company ... or, rather, he was; he's been downsized, his position outsourced. He can't bring himself to tell his wife, Megumi (Kyoko Koizumi), and has even less an idea of what he'd say to his sons Takashi (Yu Koyangi) and Kenji (Kai Inowaki), so for a while he dresses for work, leaves in the morning and goes to the park. Or looks for new work that simply isn't there.
At heart, Tokyo Sonata is about the difficulty of necessary conversations, and the necessity of difficult conversations. Ryhuei isn't the only person not talking about what's really going on; Megumi's deeply unhappy in her life, for reasons she can't even explain to herself; Takashi is thinking about embarking on a bold, if ill-advised, adventure; Kenji wants to study the piano, and does so in secret after his father's dismissal of the idea. Watching some films, you think that the plot's complications and character's stresses could be cleared up in one simple conversation ... and watching other, better films, you think that the plot's complications and character's stresses could be cleared up in one simple conversation and think of all the times that's been the case in your own life and how you may have failed to do so at the time, too.