Nostalgia is awash in Japan these days with films and TV shows that hearken back to simpler days. Japan cinema is also awash in films made from TV shows and Tokyo Tower is both of these. A successful TV show, this film adaptation was a big box office hit with its sentimental and rosy portrayal of a relationship between a mother and her son. In fact, the film is really just a loving valentine to good moms everywhere (hi mom!), and though more than a bit overdrawn at 140 minutes it is certainly a very effective one that will elicit tears from most unless your mother was Joan Crawford. I am not sure what the Japanese equivalent of apple pie is, but this film is all mom and apple pie. Dad is strictly a side dish.
It begins in the present with Ma (Jo Odagiri) sitting by the bedside of his mother (Kiki Kirin) in the hospital as she fights cancer and he awaits the word whether it is curable. The film then bounces back and forth between the past and her progress in the present. With a husband (Kobayashi Kaoru) who liked his late night struggles with the bottle a bit much, mom (portrayed as the younger version by the real life daughter of Kiki, Uchida Yayako, which explains the eerie likeness) decides to leave with her small son and go live with her irascible mother in a small poor mining town. Over the years times are tough and money is slim but mom always manages to take care of her son (played by various child actors all adorned with Odagiri’s famous chin mole!). Eventually to her great pride he goes off to Tokyo to university where he decides to live a bohemian life and do little but drink and play cards. He still eventually graduates, pays off his debts and begins to make his way in the world as a graphic artist and a radio personality where he has mastered smut talk. But he cares for his mother dearly and feels pangs of guilt at having taken advantage of her love for him and so invites her to come live with him in Tokyo where she becomes the center of his group of friends. Humorous at times, poignant at many turns, the film wraps its soppy tentacles around you and won’t quit until you tattoo “Mom” over your heart.
My rating for this film: 7.0