MOVIE REVIEW : ‘Jiro’ Celebrates the Beauty of Filial Love

Times Staff Writer

In the leisurely, exquisite memoir “The Story of Jiro” (at the Little Tokyo Cinema II) the 6-year old hero is in a bad way. Cared for by a wet nurse, Jiro is now torn from her and at last returned home to find himself at the mercy of a hateful, grandmother and a sickly mother consumed with jealousy over the woman who has reared him. Jiro may have a peasant resilience, but you fear for his happiness and well-being.

No knight in shining armor ever made a more dramatic and timely entrance than Jiro’s smiling, handsome father (Go Kato), whom we had not known even existed, stuck as he is in some distant governmental post for long periods. No sooner has the father, resplendent in Victorian summer whites, arrived home than he’s clambering up to the elaborate tile roof of his family’s ancestral rural estate to charm the obstreperous Jiro (Tsuyoshi Hibuchi) into coming down.

Director Tokihisa Morikawa and writer Masato Ide bring a double vision to their adaptation of Kojin Shimomura’s autobiographical novel published in the ‘40s: We at once see Jiro’s story from the child’s point of view and from his perspective as an adult. When we meet the father we see him as his son sees him--a larger-than-life figure, who knows how to love a child and how to prepare him for life. When we see him through our own eyes, we discover the vulnerability in this good-humored man’s generous nature.

“The Story of Jiro” is a beautiful film, unfolding with the unpredictability of life itself and with a deepening sense of its eternal cycles. Most of all, it celebrates the beauty of love between parents and children. In Kato’s perceptive performance the father becomes more human, while the mother, subtly played by Keiko Takahashi, acquires unexpected maturity and depth.