Beneath the lightly comedic surface of Yuki Tanada’s My Dad and Mr. Ito lies a more serious and sharply observed riff on Tokyo Story that updates the premise of unwanted family elders to reflect the current economic realities of scarce full-time work and the difficulties of maintaining a stable middle-class lifestyle. Though the clever rhyming of the Japanese title (“Oto-san” to “Ito-san”) is lost in English translation, an analogous symmetry is preserved in the film’s three central characters, who are all perfectly equidistant in their ages. 34-year-old Aya (Juri Ueno) and her 54-year-old live-in boyfriend, whom she oddly calls Ito-san (Lily Franky), are suddenly visited by Aya’s 74-year-old father (Tatsuya Fuji). (In fact, he’s essentially dumped on their doorstep by Aya’s brother and his wife, who’s been driven mad by Aya’s father’s high-maintenance crankiness.) The overly neat generational set-up—with Ito as the mediator between the resentful, squabbling father and daughter—and the sitcom-like premise may not be initially promising, but Tanada deftly avoids cliché and sentimentality to deliver skillfully drawn portraits of characters who until now were more strangers than family. Though it all ends with hints of reconciliation, the film admirably doesn’t pretend that decades-old hurts and resentments are so easily resolved.
Published as part of Japan Cuts 2017.