“Early Summer” – Chris Luedtke

Substance over style is the name of the game in Yasujiro Ozu’s Early Summer. The Mayima family has done better than most in post-war Japan while keeping their family tightly locked together. In addition to this, the family is trying to find a husband for twenty-eight year old Noriko (Setsuko Hara). Suddenly, one day she announces to the family that she will be marrying a childhood friend. Shocked at the spontaneity of the announcement the family’s bonds begins to rupture.

The set up for Ozu’s Early Summer is the only real complaint I can come up with. Throughout the first ninety minutes, all I really heard was, “Oh, Noriko, you should get married” from just about every character, with her follow-up line being something along the lines of, “I don’t want to marry.” This wasn’t the entire first ninety minutes; there was also the establishment of strong family bonds and a ton of character development, but I think Ozu went a little over the top. The entire film is only two hours and five minutes. Ninety minutes of set up is a massive chunk out of the film. Could it have been more enjoyable without this huge building block? Absolutely, the movie repeats itself several times in the beginning to ensure that the viewer absolutely knows that this is what the character believes in/holds true. Then, during the last thirty-five minutes this is all re-established and reiterated once more to ensure that the viewer absolutely knows this character is sincere on their beliefs. It seems like a waste to go through such trials.

That said, the film was pretty good. I have to admire the simplicity of the camera work. For a while, I thought that it was just flat out boring, but later on I realized what Ozu was trying to show – the simple life that the Mayima family led. The shots that really seemed to compliment this the most were the shots over fields as the winds blew through them; very symbolic of the Mayima family toward the end of the film.

The plot wasn’t anymore complex than described above on the surface level. However, there is a psychological factor to it, and that is what carries the last thirty-five minutes. This did a great job of giving the characters a more analytical view. After all, they all want to see Noriko get married, now that she is, how will each one react and how well will the family hold up? These vital questions glued me to the screen and the degree in which Ozu portrayed everyone really made this part worth waiting for.

Early Summer is a pretty good flick if you’re willing to wade through the monotonous beginning. It’s not overly complex in the story area because it’s beautiful in its simplicity. The multilayered characters do a nice job of giving more than one angle to the main event. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a sweet little film.

Rating: ★★★☆

-Chris Luedtke

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