[From February Issue 2011]
Always: Sunset on Third Street (Directed by YAMAZAKI Takashi)
This movie is set in the middle of Tokyo in 1958 (33rd year of the Showa era) when Japan was in the midst of its rapid economic growth. It was the age when the despairs of war had finally worn off and society began to shift toward convenience. The film portrays the common people who supported each other as they strived to live each day with hopes and dreams for a happy future. This motion picture won many awards including the Picture of the Year and Director of the Year awards for the 2006 Japan Academy Prize. Later, in 2007, the sequel was also produced.
The construction of the Tokyo Tower is underway amid the nation’s ambition for it to become the world’s tallest. People and products are abundant here in downtown Tokyo where, located on one of its street corners, is “Suzuki Auto.” Mutsuko, who came to the big city following the promise of mass employment, is disappointed that her place of work is such a small automobile repair shop. However, while working as a live-in employee, she gradually discovers that the owner, his wife, and their son Ippei, are all very touching people, and her mood starts to change.
Across the street from “Suzuki Auto,” CHAGAWA Ryunosuke, who dreams of becoming a novelist, runs a candy shop while also writing stories for boys’ magazine. One night, Hiromi, the mysterious and beautiful local bar owner, asks Chagawa to “look after an acquaintance’s boy.” He agrees to watch the boy named Junnosuke just because this beautiful woman has sweetly promised to “come to check on him sometimes.”
Although still struggling, Chagawa grows happier inside as he spends more and more time with both Hiromi and Junnosuke. He even borrows some money from Suzuki to buy Junnosuke a Christmas present. Then he asks for Hiromi’s hand in marriage. But his happiness does not last long as Hiromi suddenly closes the shop and disappears. Soon after, some company president arrives declaring to be Junnosuke’s real father, and claims guardianship of his illegitimate child.
“He is a wealthy man. He’ll buy you anything. I’m so glad I’ll finally get rid of you, you’re such a serious pain in the neck,” Chagawa says with false bravado to Junnosuke, who silently climbs into his father’s car. Chagawa, realizing just how important a part of his life Junnosuke has become, rushes after the fast moving car, but tumbles down. But Junnosuke soon returns and they embrace each other tightly as tears stream down both their faces.
Hiromi, who has returned to work as a dancer to pay off her debt, is waiting on the rooftop of the theater to appear on stage. She holds up her hand against the glare of the setting sun, imagining the ring Chagawa promised her he would someday buy. The Suzuki family drops off Mutsuko at the train station where she will travel to meet her family for the New Year’s celebration. On their way home, the Suzuki family stops by the riverbank to admire the sunset. “The sunset will always be beautiful; even tomorrow, and the day after, and even 50 years from now,” Ippei says to his parents, who agree. The sunset softly washes over the family, with the freshly completed Tokyo Tower in the background, as the film comes to an end.