Perfect Days (2023)

Perfect Days is acclaimed director Wim Wenders’ Tokyo-set film for which Koji Yakusho won a well-deserved Best Actor award.

I'm glad I spent it with you

by Alexa Dalby

Perfect Days

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

What a wonderful actor Koji Yakusho is – he won the best actor award at Cannes in 2023 for his performance as Hirayama, a Tokyo public toilet cleaner in Perfect Days.

Wim Wenders’ delicate film follows Hirayama’s unchanging routine over several days. He lives alone, has an amazing collection of classic ‘70s rock music on cassette (which he plays in his van on the way to work in the early morning), of course including Lou Reed’s Perfect Day, he takes conspicuous pride in his work, he’s conscientious, he nurtures seedlings, goes to the bathhouse and appears happy just to live with his circumscribed daily agenda. We get the impression that this is what he feels he can cope with, though he is clearly intelligent and educated – his minimalist apartment is full of books – literary titles of all kinds and languages.

He has supper every day in a cheap metro station cafe, where they greet him as a regular. He has a sandwich lunch on the same park bench every day and takes photographs of the trees. On his day off, he goes to a down-at-heel bar, run by a middle-aged woman, Mama (Sayuri Ishikawa), – her Japanese-language rendition of House of the Rising Sun (we have heard Eric Burdon and The Animals’ version in Hirayama’s van) is surprisingly emotive.

Hirayama’s daily routine is unchanged and he’s content with his life – until it is, and life intervenes. We then find out more of his back story and can guess why he lives as he does.

He’s kind. His unreliable young assistant Takashi (Tokio Emoto), who he has previously helped out financially with his girlfriend (Aoi Yamada), leaves him in the lurch and it’s the first time we see him assert himself. He gently shadow boxes with Mama’s ex (Tomokazu Miura), gently avoiding any possible confrontation.

Perfect Days is a quietly compulsive character study that enables us, like Hirayama, to see the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Perfect Days premiered in Cannes and is released on 23 February 2024 in the UK and on Mubi. It is Japan’s Oscar entry in the Best International Feature category.

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