The Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami’s wondrous new film is set in Tokyo, where Akiko (Rin Takanashi), a young prostitute working her way through university studies, is pressured by her firmly paternal pimp to see a john that night despite her prior appointment with her grandmother. The next morning, Takashi (Tadashi Okuno), the client, an elderly retired professor and independent scholar, drives her to school, where, thrown together with her fiancé (Ryo Kase), the old man rapidly assumes a surprisingly active and beneficent role in her life.
The story’s sentimental and fable-like contours, emphasized by Kiarostami’s distinctive blend of analytical stylization and documentary avidity, throw character traits into sharply foregrounded relief. From the very first shot in a bar, where the action is sparked by an off-camera voice, he revitalizes the ordinary by means of his extraordinary powers of perception and juxtaposition. The many trips through Tokyo, filmed incisively from moving vehicles, infuse the rich texture of the city with a startling emotional intensity and a sense of teeming ambient drama; the story’s loose ends lead deep into the fabric of intertwined lives.
Richard Brody, The New Yorker