Professor Shukichi Somiya (Chisyu Ryu) has dedicated much of his time and energy to his studies, leaving his daughter, Noriko (Setsuko Hara), with the task of managing their household. It is a comfortable and nurturing environment that suits them well until one day when Noriko meets an old family friend, a widower named Onodera (Masao Mishima), who has recently remarried. Onodera reminds Shukichi of his parental duties to see Noriko marry, and Shukichi’s sister, Masa Taguchi (Haruko Sugimura), suggests that his assistant, Hattori (Jun Usami), should make a suitable husband for Noriko. Upon hearing that Hattori and Noriko spent an afternoon together bicycling to the beach, Shukichi attempts to elicit Noriko’s feelings on the subject of marriage, but is derailed when she explains that Hattori is already engaged. Unfazed by the disappointing news, Masa then presents Noriko with a new prospect named Satake, a Tokyo University graduate with a promising future at Nitto Chemicals who, she assuredly describes, looks just like Gary Cooper, “especially his mouth …but not the top half.” In an attempt to persuade Noriko to meet the potential suitor, Masa casually brings up the topic of her plans to act as a matchmaker between Shukichi and an attractive young widow named Mrs. Miwa (Kuniko Miyake), and Shukichi continues the deception in order to help Noriko overcome her ambivalence. After observing a polite exchange between Shukichi and Mrs. Miwa during a Noh play, Noriko realizes that things cannot remain as they are, and gradually comes to a sad realization and acceptance of a life apart from her adoring father.
Yasujiro Ozu creates a poignant and exquisitely realized portrait of devotion, separation, and familial love in Late Spring. By providing minimal plot and eliminating external catalysts, Ozu portrays an honest reflection of contemporary Japanese middle and lower class family life, the shomin-geki. Stripped of a manipulative and artificial storyline, Late Spring reveals a sincere concern for the plight of the common man, an affectionate celebration for the subtle beauty of everyday life, and a profound sympathy for the inevitable passage of time.
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