Perfect Days Review: Now is Now

Legendary filmmaker Wim Wenders takes us on a meditative ride through Tokyo in “Perfect Days.” With an opening shot of an elderly street sweeper at dawn, the movie in-medias-res delves into the Buddhist practice of Soji, connecting Zen philosophy to our everyday lives. The director-writer masterfully intertwines this concept with the protagonist Hirayama’s story, offering a unique perspective on the post-pandemic world. Written in 3 weeks and shot in 17 days, Wenders and his team deliver the greatest little treasure of 2023 filmmaking.

The film follows Hirayama, played by Koji Yakusho, a toilet cleaner who finds joy in the simplicity of life. Hirayama’s disciplined weekly routine is a testament to his love for nature, literature, and music. He takes photos of his favorite trees, enjoys lunch in parks, and listens to 70s-80s American classics on cassettes, his daily rituals exude a sense of calm and mindfulness.

During the second half of the movie, his sudden interactions with family, including his estranged sister and niece Niko, challenge the boundaries of his carefully constructed world and invite him to confront emotions he has long kept buried. Romantic love and lingering death also burst into his life. Through these encounters, Hirayama begins to recognize that the shadows that loom over each of us are not as isolating as they may seem. „Our worlds” might be most interesting when they touch.

Iconic actor, Koji Yakusho delivers a stunning performance as the protagonist, infusing the character with depth, nuance, and a deep sense of humility. Seeing his face in 4K close-ups is a real treat. Alongside him, Tokio Emoto shines as Takashi, adding a layer of humor and warmth with his comedic timing and relatable struggles in love.

Wim Wenders serves us – this film really is a service to the world – with a story about kindness, simplicity and interconnectedness, a refreshing departure from life-threatening, apocalyptic dramas of today.

Perfect Days

Perfect Days. Source: The New Yorker

While the movie explores a specific character in his natural setting, it never loses its universal appeal. Wenders’ skillful direction ensures that every frame is filled with vivid details, enriching the viewer’s experience. The gentle soundtrack and pretty visuals further enhance this immersive experience, transforming “Perfect Days” into a cinematic meditation on the beauty of everyday life. The film’s cinematography, with its rich, deep purples and otherworldly atmosphere, elevates the story to poetry and self-reflection.

There is a peculiar story of origin behind „Perfect Days’ ‘ though. Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto’s thoughtfully designed public toilets for the Olympics, which initially inspired the movie. As the games got delayed, the city council wanted to, at least, shoot a documentary about them. As the legendary German filmmaker got invited to visit the hyper artistic toilets, he decided to create a full-length movie instead of a documentary. This results in a remarkable narrative that blurs the line between fiction and observational documentary. “Perfect Days’ ‘ also has the gentle force to transcend cultural barriers with its universal story and powerful performances, enhanced by a soundtrack that features iconic artists like Patti Smith and The Animals.

Wenders’ hyper-sensitivity shines through in every shot, paying homage to Yasujiro Ozu while crafting a unique and unforgettable cinematic experience. In conclusion, “Perfect Days” offers a welcome escape from our chaotic world, reminding us that happiness can be found in simple pleasures. And as the film builds to its moving last scene, audiences will be left with a deep sense of empathy and renewed appreciation for everything that life’s got to offer, both good and bad.

You can find „Perfect Days” on Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play or catch it at cinemas.

~ by Dora Endre ~