The aging couple from Onomichi are loving and slower-paced, and their children in Tokyo move swiftly and are more concerned with their jobs and keeping house. Tokyo Story portrays the affect city life has on people’s priorities. Even Noriko, the daughter-in-law who wasn’t bound by any duty to spend time with her in-laws, confesses to the colder mindset that the couple’s children so explicitly betray. The city seems to squeeze warmth out of people, and the couple observes such changes in their children. What is truly tragic then, is the mother’s death, because she is steadfastly the warmest of all the characters in the film. In fact, this isn’t just a matter of warmness or coldness of character or of just family, this film contemplates the humanity of people when framed in particular landscapes, and the city seems to drain humanity.
This matter is furthered by Ozu’s analysis of the film, in particular his comparison of the sacred and the vulgar throughout the film. Even the couple have a line drawn between them at a certain point, as Ozu points out, during the night the couple separate. The husband partakes in the vulgar by returning to his old habit of drinking until nearly unconscious, a habit that rightly worries his daughter later at the funeral dinner. The mother, however, reaches for the sacred by spending time with Noriko, where there is no obligation between them anymore, thereby making them, as Ozu denotes, “strangers” (105). However, Ozu’s elevation of mundane objects as “gazing” at the mother, as part of the elderly’s well-known tendency to become forgetful, seems to be overstretched analysis. The elderly usually are forgetful, so this labeling of a normal atrophy as something particularly special seems a bit excessive.