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Charming but understated to a fault, Perfect Days gives intriguing insight in the life of a cleaner of toilets in Tokyo but is so ambiguous about what message it wants to convey, you might tune out.

Director Wim Wenders has always excelled at capturing tiny, wordless character moments and he does so as wel in Perfect Days, immensely helped by a standout, lovable lead performancy by Kôji Yakusho, who won a best actor prize in Cannes earlier this year. Yakusho plays toilet cleaner Hirayama, who despite his humble job seems utterly content with his life, as he fills his spare time reading books, visiting his favourite izakaya and listening to boomer music, including the titular Lou Reed track.

Conventionally you might expect the film to slowly let Hirayama's life unravel to add drama but this is not Wim Wenders' approach. Yes, new characters and encounters, and small stumbling blocks are put in the character's path but they never truly break his routine, not even when his young niece unexpectedly comes to visit him for a few days.

Somehow, against the odds, the approach almost works, until you reach the final sequence and Wenders - for several minutes - shows you a close-up of Hirayama behind the wheel, his emotions running back and forth between happiness and deep sadness and regret.

It's a powerful scene but also one that highlights Perfect Days' main flaw. It's a thin line between a movie that is subtle and one that doesn't quit know what it wants to say.

release: 2023

director: Wim Wenders

starring: Kôji Yakusho, Tokio Emoto, Arisa Nakano, Aoi Yamada


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