The Only Son is a quintessential Ozu home drama on the relationship between a widowed mother (Choko Iida) and her son, Ryosuke. Encouraged by her son’s ambitious elementary school teacher (Chishu Ryu), the mother slaves at a silk manufacturing factory, sacrificing personal and financial comfort and security, in order to support Ryosuke’s education so that he may grow up to be a “great man”. Thirteen years later, she travels to Tokyo to visit Ryosuke and finds that that his once seemingly bright future has become quashed by limited opportunity and personal obligations. Alternately poignant, comical, and bittersweet, the film is a thoughtful exposition of Ozu’s familiar themes of familiar estrangement and acceptance of life’s inevitable disappointments.
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