In postwar Tokyo, this household is loving and serene: older parents, their 28-year-old daughter Noriko, their married son, his devoted wife, and two rascally sons. Their only discontent is Noriko’s lack of a husband. Society is changing: she works, she has women friends who tease and argue, her brother sees her independence as impudence, she sees it as normal. When her boss suggests that she marry a 40-year-old bachelor who is his friend, all the members of her family press her to accept. Without seeking their advice, and to their chagrin, Noriko determines her own course of action.
User Reviews: Ozu’s "Early Summer" is a delightful movie to watch, pleasant and light in its story, yet thoughtful and sensitive in a good many respects. It is also a triumph for Ozu’s simple-looking but carefully conceived style of film-making, and the material in the story parallels the style in a natural but satisfying manner.
So many of Ozu’s movies portray the distinctive characteristics of the Japan of his day, and yet do so in a way that make the characters and their situations seem almost universal. By focusing so much of the running time on repeated daily routines, even the habits and customs unique to its own society become points of identification, since routines are routines, regardless of how they might differ from one time and place to another.
Here, the family relationships among the central characters are fleshed out carefully, so as to create many possibilities in the interactions between the various generations. There is significant screen time given to many different characters, and all of them are worth getting to know. Noriko (Setsuko Hara) is the main character, in that she ties together her family with the characters outside of it, and as the movie proceeds, it is her life that gradually becomes the main focus. Ozu’s presentation of the preoccupation that the other characters have with Noriko’s unmarried status is both believable and perceptive. Hara is very endearing in the role, and she does very well in portraying her relationships with and her reactions to the other characters.
Given that Ozu deliberately makes very sparing use of camera movement and similar techniques, in favor of simple but carefully composed settings that emphasize the characters themselves, there is a nice parallel in the way that the story proceeds and the main questions are resolved. The characters’ heartfelt decisions are shown to be more worthwhile than meticulous arrangements. As tends to happen with his films, a pleasing pattern with a ring of truth to it emerges, almost unexpectedly. It’s enjoyable to watch, and an admirable display of cinematic skill.