An elderly couple (Chishū Ryū and Chieko Higashiyama) make their first trip to Tokyo to visit their children.
First the children’s lives are shown from the perspective of the parents, as they travel to the big city and see the modern world in all its busyness, discovering children who have turned out very differently to how they expected. Then, when mother falls sick, we see the parents from the children’s perspective as the family gathers round.
Like its spiritual successor, Still Walking, it largely avoids emotional outbursts, with characters who are stoic in their attitudes to change and death. One of their sons is presumed dead in the Pacific War, but they keep their sadness well hidden, and appreciate the company of widowed daughter-in-law Noriko (Setsuko Hara) who treats them better than their own children do.
You could argue it’s critical of modernity, but it also views change as inevitable and something to be accepted rather than fought. It’s beautifully shot to show the juxtaposition of old and new, with pagoda-style roofs offset by fume-spewing factories, and accompanied by a lovely score. The result is a poignant and moving story about accepting and appreciating what you have, while recognising that nothing lasts forever.