Daughters, Wives and a Mother | Chicago Reader

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The vibrant color photography of this Japanese domestic drama (1960) frequently evokes MGM musicals, which seems ironic given Mikio Naruse’s characteristically bitter story of middle-class unhappiness. It concerns an aging mother, her five grown children, and several of their spouses, nearly all of whom have money troubles. When one of the daughters (Setsuko Hara) is widowed, she returns to the family nest with a substantial inheritance; one by one, her siblings take advantage of her trusting personality, driving her close to bankruptcy and despair. The many major characters can be hard to keep straight, but that only enhances the movie’s suffocating portrait of family life. With his usual quiet focus, Naruse accumulates moments of pettiness and cruelty until they become overwhelming. In Japanese with subtitles.

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