Perfect Days review — a low-key delight

Directed by Wim Wenders | Written by Wenders and Takuma Takasaki | 124 min | ▲▲▲▲△ | on VOD and digital

As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t get to all the Oscar nominees this year before the big show, but in the weeks ahead I hope to catch up with a few of the recognized films that remain unseen by me. (On that note, I also have a list of Canadian Screen Award nominees!)

This one is a genuine treat. Japan’s Oscar submission for Best  International Feature comes from a veteran German director, making this a genuine cross-cultural coproduction. Wenders, the genius filmmaker behind The American Friend, Paris Texas, and Wings Of Desire has found more approbation since those great films through his documentary work, including Buena Vista Social Club and Pina, but this feels like a return to feature form.

Perfect Days is the story of a man named Hirayama (played with a lot of nuance by Kôji Yakusho) who leads a solitary life cleaning Tokyo’s fantastic, modern public toilets. Hirayama says very little, so we learn about his character through his habits, gestures, his diligence in his work, the music he plays in his van (on cassette!), his interest in photography, the way he cares for his plants, the way he smiles at people and looks up at the sky every morning.

He lives his life in the present and to the fullest even while doing work some would consider menial or unpleasant. We even see into his black and white dreams, montages that look like a throwback to more traditional Japanese cinema.

Moments of story involving other characters — Hirayama’s frustrating assistant, Takashi (Tokio Emoto), a woman Takashi is interested in, Aya (Aoi Yamada), Hirayama’s neice, Niko (Arisa Nakano), and a furtive game of tic-tac-toe — are subplots, pleasant detours from the main road of Hirayama’s life and worldview.

This is a welcome renewal for Wenders, a moving, understated character study.

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.