Star Rating:

Perfect Days

Director: Wim Wenders

Actors: Koji Yakusho, Tokio Emoto

Release Date: Friday 23rd February 2024

Genre(s): Drama

Running time: 123 minutes

Hirayama (Koji Yakusho) works as a cleaner for Tokyo's public toilets, and spends his free time enjoying the music of Lou Reed, Patti Smith, and more on his cassette tapes to and from work. His life is one of repetitive rituals, and his daily interactions with his assistant (Tokio Emoto), a homeless man (Min Tanaka) he regularly encounters, a restauranteur (Sayuri Ishikawa) and his niece (Arisa Nakano), who runs away from his estranged sister...

The general idea goes that any script or story should be set on the most interesting and significant day of the character's life. Otherwise, we're simply left with characters going about their lives in relative peace and harmony. 'Perfect Days' challenges this from the get-go. The first half hour of the movie shows Koji Yakusho's character quietly go through his day, from dawn to dusk. His apartment in Tokyo is minimalist, he cleans himself and prepares himself for his day, and he sets off to the sounds of the Kinks on his cassette player. We see him scrubbing out public toilets around the city, stopping only when a toilet is in use by a public that ignores him routinely. Yet, when he has a moment of respite, he glances up at trees and sunlight surrounding him and a gentle, knowing smile creeps across his face and he continues onwards.

The idea of capturing a quiet, boring life in a cinematic has been done before. Jim Jarmusch's 'Patterson', starring Adam Driver as a poetry-writing bus driver, was a slice-of-life drama that follows a similar vein here. Yet for Wim Wenders, the central character is not necessarily one who creates or even offers anything to the world. Instead, we see him take pleasure in the ordinary moments and the unremarkable beats of city life and in turn, we're reminded of how narrow fixations - be it on phones, screens, work, whatever - rob us of enjoying the simple beauty that surrounds on a daily basis.

Wim Wenders' ability to say so much with so little is what makes 'Perfect Days' truly astounding at some times. Even the black-and-white impressionistic dreams that the main character has are so open to interpretation. The frequent musical interludes, played out of a tape cassette, brighten up the scenery. The calmness which pervades his daily life is as understated as the movie itself. It's beautiful, simple, clean and elegant, full of meaning in silence and solitude, and reflects what is missing or what is extraneous in our existence.

It could be that 'Perfect Days' would bore some people to tears, as the monotony of the central character's life doesn't necessarily belie some kind of tragedy or sadness. In the final act of the movie, he has a brief reunion with his estranged sister who asks him incredulously if he's actually cleaning toilets for a living. He smiles and proudly nods, unashamed of his life, and why should he be? We're watching him go about his days in perfect harmony with the world around him. As well, one could argue that there's a kind of tweeness about it all, that it somehow fetishes a boring life, but 'Perfect Days' is nothing if not deliberately restrained. It works like a whisper, and is full of soul if you can hear it.