Film Review: Tokyo Godfathers
Tokyo Godfathers is by Satoshi Kon, and you'll immediately recognize his realistic art style if you've seen his other work. Unlike Perfect Blue, it's not dark and scary (for the most part) and unlike Paprika, it's not really weird and trippy. So what is Tokyo Godfathers? Touching and heartfelt, like a Studio Ghibli movie, but more grown up and realistic. But you know, without the big wolves they had in Princess Mononoke.
Satoshi Kon & Keiko Nobumoto
Peter B. Kyne's novel, Three Godfathers
Tokyo Godfathers takes place in, well, Tokyo, but it is not, as the name would suggest, a high-octane mafia thriller. It is instead about an unlikely and odd sort of family coming together. It starts with a group of loosely associated homeless people find a baby. The effeminate man thinks of this baby as a miracle child, since it's Christmas, comparing it to the miraculous birth of the Christ child. Another homeless man and runaway teenage girl try to talk him down from his delusional tree, trying to convince him to turn the baby in to the police.
What follows is a string of misadventures and odd coincidental happenings, leading up to us finally figuring out where the baby came from. We also learn about the pasts of our three main characters along the way. It's a fun ride, with a lot of surprising twists, but the plot is somewhat complicated and convoluted.
I would call it a good, but not great, movie. I would watch it again just to take notes on the story lines, because there are so many plot threads, they all seem to be tangled, and some minor characters have stories that are introduced but don't really end up anywhere. Namely, in the middle of the film, there are some mobster characters introduced, but they have nothing really to do with the child, and little to do with the main characters. It's almost like they're there to make the "godfathers" reference, but the "godfathers" in this show are basically the two homeless men taking care of the baby while trying to find its parents. So, you could say the plot is kind of a mess and kind of hard to figure out.
But, the film is excellent at tugging on the heart strings. It feels gritty and realistic, but it doesn't push everything into an unrealistically ultra-violent or ultra-negative space to be that way. Some Western filmmakers could take lessons here; a film can be realistic, and drama can still be compelling, without having a lot of over-the-top "dark" elements like torture, rape or constant backstabbing.
Some storytellers around here seem to think you have to have bad guys do the worst thing imaginable to have a compelling narrative. Not to spoil it, but this story's "villain" is simply a troubled, lonely woman living a very sad life. It's human and down to Earth. They don't have a psychopath who goes around torturing people for fun.
So, not a perfect movie (but that doesn't exist), but still really great and really emotionally compelling.