Take note of the shadows in “Good Days.” Listen additionally to the bushes, to the methods Hirayama (Koji Yakusho) appears to be like at them. They’re as a lot a personality within the story as he’s.
Hirayama cleans Tokyo’s public bathrooms for a residing, rising earlier than daybreak to softly water the seedlings he grows in his dwelling after which drive off to start his shift. On the way in which to work, he picks a cassette tape — Van Morrison, the Velvet Underground, Nina Simone — and listens whereas driving down the freeway. Tokyo’s Skytree skyscraper looms within the distance.
Hirayama clearly derives enjoyment from performing his work nicely, however there’s extra to his life than labor, and extra to this film than a simplistic celebration of handbook toil. He retains to a easy routine, the sort so fastidiously constructed you begin to surprise if it’s a bulwark towards chaos. He exits his house and breathes deeply, as soon as, on the similar time each morning. He drinks the identical espresso, eats the identical sandwich, snaps the identical pictures of the tree cover. He frequents the identical eating places and bars, public baths and bookstores, locations the place everybody is aware of who he’s.
Pivotal to his peace is Hirayama’s assortment of bodily media, a shocking sight in a digital world: Along with his in depth assortment of cassettes, he has cabinets of used paperbacks and bins of tree images filed and stashed in his small, neat house. They’re anchors in time, companions all through his days, riches rounding out his life. When he brings a ebook to the bar on the weekend, the proprietor tells him admiringly that he’s such an mental. “I wouldn’t say that,” he says.
In truth, Hirayama says little or no. (The primary time I noticed the movie, the subtitles have been mistakenly turned off, and the viewers didn’t even understand for about half an hour.) As a substitute he’s an observer, attending to Tokyo and to the individuals in it with a tenderness and forbearance that, in the event you’re not paying consideration, you’ll ascribe to a easy nature. It’s solely if you watch his expression, at instances, that one thing else glints, a ache that flashes solely briefly. “Good Days” chronicles solely a few weeks — one simple and placid, the opposite filled with disruption — and slowly, exquisitely hints that the construction of Hirayama’s life allows him to exist within the current, representing a alternative which will have come after an extended trauma. There are clues in his encounters with relations and strangers and, later, in his rattled response to an sudden sight.
“Good Days” — which was Japan’s entry to the Oscars within the worldwide function class, and landed a nomination — began life when its director, Wim Wenders, was approached about engaged on a mission that will elevate the profile of Tokyo’s pristine public bathrooms. He proposed a story function, and the movie was born.
That will appear an unlikely place to begin for a film like this. However Wenders took the idea and ran with it, portray the story with a wash of nostalgia. Hirayama’s insistently analog life (he asks a younger lady what sort of a retailer “Spotify” is) swings close to to feeling gimmicky, however Yakusho sells it together with his efficiency: That is only a man of a sure age who likes the stuff he likes and feels no have to sustain with no matter the remainder of the world is doing. A youthful co-worker (Tokio Emoto) pleads with him to show his tape assortment into money, to get with the instances, however Hirayama simply isn’t . He’s elected to mark the passage of time by his images, not by acquiring no matter is new. In some sense, “Good Days” is a film about what we lose when every thing turns into digitized.
However there’s one thing else right here. Plainly Wenders’s eye, like Hirayama’s, snagged on the shadows. The canopies of bushes are omnipresent within the movie, seeping into Hirayama’s desires at evening, which Wenders renders in hazy black and white.
There’s a phrase in Japanese that transliterates to “komorebi” and refers to a phenomenon for which there isn’t any single phrase in English: the standard of sunshine because it filters by foliage. Hirayama’s life and thoughts are filled with shadows, regardless of the daylight he retains reaching for. The sunshine of komorebi shouldn’t be full brightness — it’s glistening, ever-changing, filled with variation. Hirayama loves this, and he images it as a result of the fixed seize of what different individuals miss — the delicate shifts within the cover each single day — are for him one other indication of the bushes’ vitality.
Past the shadows, bushes are a recurring motif on this movie. There’s the Skytree, which is the world’s tallest tower. In a bookstore, Hirayama buys a ebook entitled “Tree” by the writer Aya Koda — “she deserves extra recognition,” the bookseller tells him. And naturally, there are the literal bushes, at all times standing close to the general public bathrooms that Hirayama cleans. Timber put down roots and develop so slowly and imperceptibly that you could’t actually discover. However they’re additionally markers of time, holding of their rings the proof of radiation, precipitation, local weather change and rather more.
I ponder, somewhat, if Hirayama thinks of himself as associated to the bushes. When he spots a seedling that received’t develop with out correct daylight, he pulls a small folded pocket manufactured from newsprint out of his pockets, spoons a little bit of grime in, provides the seedling, and brings it dwelling to nurture there. He smiles on the saplings in his dwelling, which he’ll carry exterior in the future. The bushes signify one thing important about life, the casting of solar and shadow each important and inevitable to existence.
The title of “Good Days” is a reference to Lou Reed’s music “Good Day,” which performs one morning on Hirayama’s tape deck. “You simply preserve me hanging on,” the refrain repeats. Hirayama’s manner of hanging on includes residing with the shadows, appreciating the standard of the daylight and placing down deep, deep roots.
Rated PG for some beer ingesting and an immature co-worker. In Japanese, with subtitles. Working time: 2 hours 3 minutes. In theaters.