Perfect Days | Picturehouse Recommends

Wim Wenders (Paris, Texas) navigates the meditative beauty of everyday life and its impermanence.

Caitlin Quinlan

07 Feb 24

Wim Wenders

Release Date
09 February


Kôji Yakusho, Arisa Nakano, Tokio Emoto


Running Time
125 mins

The Japanese idiom mono no aware refers to a person's understanding of the transient nature of life and a gentle wistfulness towards time's passing. It has long been a concept explored in Japanese literature and culture, and in their national cinema it is perhaps most associated with the work of master filmmaker Yasujirō Ozu.

Now, another legendary director, Wim Wenders, navigates the meditative beauty of everyday life and its impermanence in Perfect Days, a life-affirming portrait of a service worker in contemporary Tokyo.

Hirayama (Kôji Yakusho) spends his days cleaning toilets in the Japanese capital, tending to the public spaces with as much care and precision as he does his houseplants or his perfectly trimmed moustache. His life is one of order and serenity; there is a beautifully realised sense of peaceful routine to everything he does, both inside his home and out.

He is content with how his life has settled down, but a series of surprise encounters with people around the city, including family members he hasn't seen for a long time, gradually open up his past and force Hirayama to reconnect with those he may have left behind.

With Perfect Days, Wenders returns to the bittersweet but heartfelt tone of his 1984 classic Paris, Texas, another poignant character study of a man navigating his connection to society and his place in the world.

This new film also marked Wenders' return to the main competition at the Cannes Film Festival; Perfect Days competed for the Palme d'Or in 2023 and lead actor Yakusho was awarded the festival's Best Actor prize for his exceptionally moving performance. He depicts Hirayama with a sense of warmth and serenity in his day-to-day life (watch him take in the early morning light), but is also adept at subtly portraying his underlying feelings about his personal history.

Wenders himself is skilful in foregrounding this reflective yet still hopeful attitude across the film, lingering on shots of dappled sunlight or trees swaying in the breeze to create a poetic ode to the small joys of life. It's a tender reminder to appreciate these pleasures more, to look up at the sky in the midst of a busy city or pause a moment in a park during the workday and breathe in the air around you. In the filmmaker's experienced hands, this adds to the film's emotional impact through its sheer simplicity and universality.

These moments of peace in Hirayama's life are soundtracked by the music he loves, iconic hits from the 1960s to 1980s that open the story out to a world beyond Tokyo. From Lou Reed and Patti Smith to Otis Redding, Perfect Days uses music as a way to further create a sense of shared kinship between viewers and the characters. It also adds to the nostalgic element of the film, reiterating that sense of mono no aware and connecting warmly to the past but never falling into saccharine longing.

Perfect Days is a heartening tale of one man's life in the city, and a fascinating depiction of Tokyo that centres the experience of a worker in a typically overlooked and underappreciated role. Toilet cleaning is not a job often depicted on film, but Wenders renders it cinematic by exploring the rhythms and beauty of daily tasks and small pleasures.

This delightful film shows just how euphoric charming reflections on the simplicity of life can be.
  Caitlin Quinlan

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Perfect Days is in cinemas from 14 Feb Book Now!