I wrote about Tokyo Story in 2010:
Near the end of Tokyo Story, Noriko (played by the impossibly great Setsuko Hara) finally speaks some of the things she has been thinking throughout the film. Very few “real” emotions are spoken in Tokyo Story … they are implied, and you can’t miss them, but the characters smile, and nod their heads, and speak in congenialities, and smile some more. Noriko smiles more than anyone; she also appears to be the most virtuous (Hara’s nickname was “The Eternal Virgin”). But she finally admits that she is not the perfect person people make her out to be … she has her flaws like anyone else, she thinks bad thoughts like anyone else. Her admission is startling, not just because of her virtue, but because no one has spoken so bluntly in the entire movie up to that point. She is reassured by her father-in-law that her actions prove her virtue, and her admission of imperfection only proves that she’s as close to perfect as anyone is likely to get. At that moment, a different movie would find a way to send the audience off with hope. Instead, in Tokyo Story, Noriko’s sister-in-law asks, “Isn’t life disappointing?” Noriko smiles as always, and replies, “Yes, it is.”
Setsuko Hara died last September at the age of 95. Her death was announced this week.