I know I said back in my UN CHIEN ANDALOU review that Bunuel was The Greatest Director of All Time, but the more films I watch by Yasujiro Ozu the more I think I might have been wrong. Bunuel was a different style of director, but I've seen some of his films that were less than stellar and a few that even bordering on bad. Ozu on the other hand, I've yet to see anything by him that wasn't stellar and more than a few that are masterpieces. None of this is to disparage Bunuel though, being the #2 Greatest Director of All Time is still pretty good.
THE ONLY SON was made in Japan in 1936, but the story is universal and still touching today. In 1923, Tsune is a widowed factory worker in a small town. She wants her young son, Ryosuke, to get an education and become a great man so she sacrifices everything she has (even selling her homestead and living in a tenement at the factory) to send Ryosuke to Tokyo so he can go to school.
1936. She hasn't seen her son in thirteen years so she goes to Tokyo to see him. Once there she's heartbroken to see that he's just a night school teacher living in a small house with a wife and baby. She hides her sadness and makes the best of the visit, but still inside she is devastated that her boy, who she gave up her entire life for, is just average.
Anything wise that I could say about THE ONLY SON has already been said in Tony Rayns' brilliant essay here, but I'll go ahead an throw in my two cents and say that I liked this film a lot. It's probably too slow for most people, but if you give it a chance I think you'll like it. The final (wordless) scene is heartbreaking.
Double feature with THERE WAS A FATHER.