Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Produced by Sojiro Motoki
Written by Akira Kurosawa and Keinosuke Uekusa
Cast: Isao Numasaki, Chieko Nakakita, Atsushi Watanabe, Zeko Nakamura, Ichiro Namiki, Toppa Utsumi, Ichirô Sugai, Masao Shimizu, Shiro Mizutani, Aguri Hidaka, Midori Ariyama, and Katao Numazaki
A couple tries to have a date with only 35 yen to spend on a Sunday.
Living in a country ravaged by war is no easy thing. Recovering from wartime devastation takes time; that recovery also includes a person’s mental well-being. War has a tendency to wreck a person’s hope and dreams.
One Wonderful Sunday is the story of a poor couple trying to retain a sense of hope in a war-torn Japan. Yuzo is the usual cynic and his fiancée, Masako is the typical idealist. Their relationship is not a simple case of opposite attracts” but one of genuine warmth and affection. Since it states that Yuzo wasn’t always a pessimist, it’s only the result of their poor state. Yuzo and Masako’s unenviable state that would have been shockingly familiar to millions of Japanese at the time. It also helps that the couple actually looks like real people, not overly attractive to suit movie conventions. It’s an obvious attempt at a social commentary for post-war Japan. One Wonderful Sunday isn’t a simple ”feel good” movie trying to pat the audience on the back for some momentary approval.
There is more than meets the eyes in Yuzo and Masako’s adventures. Like a former friend who served with Yuzo during the war refusing to meet with Yuzo since he is now rich while Yuzo is a poor man, this isn’t commented upon directly but the passive aggressiveness from his friend’s employees is more than enough to hint at this. In the same sequence, Yuzo taking a moment to look at his clothes right before he leaves his friend’s hotel drives the point: Yuzo is out of his element. Not a single line of dialogue here for such a moment yet it says so much. Or when Yuzo and Masako are projecting their feelings on the animals in the zoo. The entire story is quite playful in its tone and style, the moments of disgrace that Yuzo is forced to endure is enough to give the movie a downbeat overtone.
No one’s life is on the line though someone’s pride being on the line adds a real-life sensibility to the drama. Your first impressions of Masako might be to think, she is way too childish and idealistic for her own good, but the longer the movies goes on, you realize it is Yuzo is the more childish one. Masako’s ability to hold to a dream in the face of such hardship is her strongest trait. Yuzo realizing the importance of dreams is his personal journey. It’s a journey that forces Yuzo to confront everything from his pride to his masculinity. The culmination of their date is both of them acting out their future dreams like children.
Dreams are like children they need time and nourishment to flourish. It can be argued no one is more passionate about their dreams than children. So, Yuzo and Masako acting like children really spotlights how much both have recognized the importance of dreams in their lives. This playing pretend becomes meta-like in one instance when Masako delivers a speech to an imagined audience. Of course, that supposed imagined audience is us watching the film. Masako’s speech is a simultaneous fierce call to action and a cry for help. The longer the ”playing pretend segment” continues, it warps into a soliloquy. The target of this soliloquy is quite clear. The role-playing sequence begins in a war-torn area where Yuzo talks about making his mission in life building a coffee shop there.
By ”there”, I mean the site of destruction, Yuzo’s mission in life isn’t really about making coffee, it is about rising above the ruins of war even if it through the means of a humble coffee shop to find hope. Masako even says at the site ”Great! You’re your old self again.” That’s also the gist of the story’s moral; you will only find hope by following a dream even in the face of destruction.
Although One Wonderful Sunday is an effective heart warmer as a film. But it has several blemishes like several scenes go on for too long for their own good. The ending sequences are probably guilty of this the most. Watching One Wonderful Sunday is still a great way to spend a rainy Sunday.