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Perfect Days Review: Makes You Appreciate The Little Things

Perfect Days is an extremely emotional film that makes you appreciate the little things in life with Koji Yakusho delivering an incredible performance.

Perfect Days movie review

Perfect Days is one of the most emotional movies to come out of this year’s New York Film Festival, filled with beautiful shots, a heartbreaking but joyous story and a near perfect performance – this film is a must watch.

The film follows Hirayama played by Koji Yakusho, a toilet cleaner in Tokyo. He lives a very simple and structured life, dedicating his free time to books, music and photography. The plot progresses as we find out more about his past through unexpected encounters but without giving any spoilers away, it feels like we as the audience learn more about the future rather than the past, more on that later.

Perfect Days premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and the lead actor, Koji Yakusho, won best actor at the festival – and rightfully so. The film itself is very subtle and so is Koji’s performance. Aside from one blatant scene to show off his amazing acting at the end of the film, on a character level, most of the film is a very slow burn but Koji along with the rest of the cast do a great job tying the performances to the story. Arisa Nakano plays the niece of Hirayama (Koji Yakusho), Niko. Though she isn’t in the film for very long, her character is essential to the revelations of Hirayama’s past but more so how his future is changed.

Before diving too far into the thematic elements of the film, the visuals are stunning. Before getting too technical, the movie was shot in 17 days. Yes it is a pretty basic film but with how stunning it looks, this is definitely a surprise. Cinematographer Franz Lustig who is a longtime collaborator with the film’s director, Wim Winders, employed a 1.33 (square) aspect ratio with small sequences in black and white.

Though this might not seem like an important detail, nowadays a lot of directors and cinematographers just use a square aspect ratio with no backbone, no real creative reasoning, same goes for the use of black and white.

Perfect Days movie review

I don’t think this film would be nearly as visually striking if not for the 1.33 aspect ratio. Tokyo is such a high city, filled with sharp edged architecture that feels like it touches the sky – the seemingly ‘taller’ aspect ratio makes the city so much more satisfying. On top of that thematically the film relies a lot on architecture, commenting on peace and uniformity, the visuals are the perfect aid.

Thematically the film is very slow, the real themes don’t come to the forefront until the start of the third act but once it is revealed the whole movie clicks. The first act focuses on the main character’s system. The second on the people around him and the third, the point of everything. Not in a surface level, “why does he clean toilets?” question but rather the biggest question of all, “why?”.

This all may seem too grand, too big and pointless – but the execution of this film is so perfect, words alone aren’t enough to capture it. One of the final scenes of the film is easily the most simple yet heartbreaking sequence in a movie this year. Though technically it isn’t a spoiler, the impact and message it sends is so unique to the first viewing experience that it gave me chills.

The core of this film is rooted in simplicity, the simplicity of life, of the moments we share, of every little experience we have. Perfect Days succeeds in making you leave the theater appreciating the fact that we are all given a life.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

NEXT: All of Us Strangers Review: Devastatingly Relatable

Perfect Days movie poster

About Perfect Days 

Hirayama seems utterly content with his simple life as a cleaner of toilets in Tokyo. Outside of his very structured everyday routine he enjoys his passion for music and for books. And he loves trees and takes photos of them. A series of unexpected encounters gradually reveal more of his past. A deeply moving and poetic reflection on finding beauty in the everyday world around us.

Perfect Days played at the NYFF 2023.