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The only Son - Movie Review

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  • Title:
  1. English: The Only Son 
  2. Japanese: 一人息子 “Hitori musuko
  • Directed by:  Yasujirō Ozu
  • Produced by: Den Takayama
  • Written by: Yasujirō Ozu, Tadao Ikeda, Masao Arata
  • Release Date: 1936
  • Country: Japan
  • Language: Japanese
  • Genre: Drama
  • Cinematography: Shōjirō Sugimoto
  • Cast:
  1. Choko Lida as Tsune Nonomiya
  2. Himori Shin'ichi as her son, Ryosuke
  3. Masao Hayama as young Ryosuke
  4. Yoshiko Tsubouchi as Sugiko
  5. Chishū Ryū as Okubo-sensei, Ryosuke's teacher
  6. Tomoko Naniwa as Okubo's wife
  7. Bakudan Kozo (Jun Yokoyama) as their son
  8. Mitsuko Yoshikawa as Otaka, Ryosuke's neighbour
  9. Tokkan Kozo (Tomio Aoki) as her son, Tomibo
  10. Eiko Takamatsu as Oshige


Yasujiro Ozu’s first talkie movie “The Only Son” depicts social and economic situation of Japan before the World War II. The movie is a typical drama genre movie which showcases the subtle flavours of Ozu’s brilliant film making. This movie is the story of a widow woman and his only son who has an aspiration to become a great man by acquiring higher education through high school and college. This movie shows the grim reality of how difficult it is for a common man to fulfill his dreams. Ozu touches upon various themes of sacrifice, family, love, disappointment and hope. The Only Son belongs to a particular time period and yet the issues that it raises remain as relevant today as they were seventy-five years ago.


Yasujirō Ozu’s first talkie movie “The only Son” depicts Pre World War II Japan. It is dedicated for specific span of time 1923 to 1926 when Japan was plagued by social injustice, mutinies, resource shortages, and poverty.  The environment showed in this movie shows the grim reality of Tokyo with its barren fields, lower income housing and industrial factories on the outskirts of the city. It depicts the economic condition of people living in the Tokyo wherein the promises of a city are high whereas the reality is completely different which this movie goes on to show in a completely unprecedented manner to the audience.


Yasujirō Ozu was a Japanese film director and screen writer. He started his career in the era of silent movies in Japan. He was born on 12 December 1903 in the Fukagawa district of Tokyo. He was the the second son of his parents. He attended Meiji nursery school and primary school.  In March 1913, at the age of nine, he was sent by his father to live in his father's home town of Matsusaka in Mie Prefecture, where he lived until 1922 and completed his High School.  In 1917 he saw the film Civilization and decided that he wanted to be a film director. In March 1921 he graduated from high school. In 1922 he took the exam for a teacher training college, but failed it. On 31 March 1922 he began working as a substitute teacher at a school in Mie prefecture. After moving back to Tokyo in 1922, he started directing silent movies for Shochiku and enjoyed strong support from one of the company’s two managing directors, Kido Shiro. Under the guidance of Kido Shiro, he directed more than 30 silent films.

Ozu made a number of short comedies movie before turning into serious themes in 1930s. Marriage and family, especially the relationships between the generations, are prominent themes in Ozu's work. His most lauded films include Late Spring (1949), Tokyo Story (1953), Floating Weeds (1959), and An Autumn Afternoon (1962).  He died in 1962. 


The genre of this movie is Drama. It can be further divided into sub genres such as costume drama, political drama and domestic drama. The only son is depicts the situation of low income family in Tokyo during 1930s. Based on its plot, this movies belongs to Domestic drama which expresses and focuses on the realistic everyday lives of middle or lower classes in a certain society, generally referring to the post-Renaissance eras.


The movie starts with a small boy, Ryosuke, and his widow mother, Tsune Nonomiya, living in a small town named Shinshu of Japan in 1923. The mother works in silk production factory and her income is very low. The son want to go to Tokyo for high school education but Tsune forbids him due to poor economic conditions. After being convinced by the Ryosuke’s teacher, she decides to send him Tokyo at any cost. She works hard and even sells her house and land for the Ryosuke’s education. With the passage of time, Ryosuke completes his education and settles down in Tokyo with his wife Sugiko who is the daughter of a restaurant owner. After thirteen years, Tsune comes to Tokyo to visit his son where she finds that his son is night school teacher even after getting the higher education. During a trip to an industrial district, she founds that her son is not happy with his achievements. Hence she chides him for giving up and tells her that she has nothing left with her neither money nor house. The only thing she wants him to succeed.

One day Sugiko sells her Kimono to raise money so that the whole family can go out for enjoyment. Meanwhile the neighbor’s son gets sick and Ryosuke spends all that money for his treatment. Tsune feels proud of his son for all that he has done to his neighbor.

At the last, while talking with his wife Ryosuke expresses his will to study further. And Tsune returns to her home town and says to her coworkers that her son has become a great man.


  1. Social and Economic condition of Japan:
  • This movie shows the living condition of people in Japan during 1930s
  • Environment used for the production of this movies indicates the both facets of Tokyo at that time i.e. growing industries on the out skirts of the city as well as lower income houses in the city
  • It depicts the wide spread unemployment and dissatisfaction among people living in Tokyo. It can be seen from the below given scenes. Even after having a high school degree, Ryosuke was unable to get a good job which can give him a reasonable salary for living. By this Ozu has showed the real situation of 1930s when companies were hiring only graduates from famous colleges. And others were forced to do underpaid job or his own business.

  1. Importance of Education:

In this movies Ozu depicts the importance of education in the life of a person to have a better life. Firstly Tsune does not want to send her child to Tokyo for high school education, but after listening to the teacher she decides to send Ryosuke for high school education. She says him that she will work hard to make him well educated. Even she sells her house for Ryosuke’s education without letting him know about it.



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