The Only Son (1936 film)

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The Only Son
The Only Son FilmPoster.jpeg
DVD cover
Directed byYasujirō Ozu
Produced byDen Takayama
Written byYasujirō Ozu (as James Maki) (story)
Tadao Ikeda
Masao Arata (screenplay)
StarringChōko Iida
Shin'ichi Himori
Chishū Ryū
Music bySenji Itō
CinematographyShōjirō Sugimoto
Distributed byShōchiku
Release date
  • 1936 (1936)
Running time
82 minutes

The Only Son (一人息子, Hitori musuko) is a 1936 film directed by Yasujirō Ozu, starring Chōko Iida and Shin'ichi Himori. The film was Ozu's first "talkie" (sound film) feature.[1][2]


The film starts in the rural town of Shinshū in 1923. A widow, Tsune (O-Tsune) Nonomiya (Chōko Iida), works hard at a silk production factory to provide for her only son, Ryōsuke. When Ryōsuke's teacher Ōkubo (Chishū Ryū) persuades her to let her son continue to study beyond elementary school, she decides to support her son's education even until college. Her son promises to become a great man.

Thirteen years later, in 1936, O-Tsune, now in her sixties, visits Ryōsuke (Shin'ichi Himori), who is twenty-eight, in Tokyo. She learns that her son, now a night school teacher, has married and even has a one-year-old son. Her daughter-in-law Sugiko is nice and obliging, but Ryōsuke's job does not pay much. Ryosuke and O-Tsune visit Ōkubo, who is now a father of four and running a tonkatsu restaurant.

The couple keeps the mother entertained but their money is running out. On a trip to an industrial district one day, Ryōsuke confides in the mother that he wishes he had never come to Tokyo, and that he is a disappointment to his mother. He later states that Tokyo is not a place where one can succeed easily. O-Tsune chides her son for giving up, telling him she has nothing now left, neither land nor house, and she only wants him to succeed.

Sugiko sells her kimono and raises enough money for the whole family to go out to enjoy themselves. However Tomibo (Tomio Aoki), a neighbor's son, gets injured by a horse and Ryōsuke rushes him to the hospital. There he gives their money to Tomibo's mother for her to foot the hospital bill. O-Tsune sees all this, and later tells Ryōsuke he has done her proud for his selfless act.

O-Tsune eventually returns to Shinshu, but not before giving the couple some money for her grandson. Ryōsuke promises his wife he will obtain a teaching certificate. Back at Shinshū, O-Tsune tells her friend at the factory her son has become a "great man". But as she retires to the back of the factory after work, her face breaks into an expression of deep grief and pain.



Roger Ebert inducted The Only Son into his Great Movies section, writing of its direction, "I really do feel as if Ozu is looking at his films along with me. He isn't throwing them up on the screen for me to see by myself. Together we look at people trying to please, and often failing, and sometimes redeeming."[3] Richard Brody of The New Yorker argued, "Ozu watches with his own stifled fury, as modernity uproots both the best and the worst aspects of tradition."[4]

DVD release[edit]

In 2010, the BFI released a Region 2 DVD of the film as a bonus feature on its Dual Format Edition (Blu-ray + DVD) of Late Spring.[5]


  1. ^ Roger Ebert (2010-07-06). "The Only Son (1936)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
  2. ^ Peter B. High (2003). The Imperial screen: Japanese film culture in the Fifteen years' war, 1931-1945. Univ of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 9780299181345. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
  3. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 6, 2010). "The Only Son Movie Review (1936)". Retrieved January 30, 2017.
  4. ^ Brody, Richard. "The Only Son". The New Yorker. Retrieved January 30, 2017.
  5. ^ "DVD & Blu-ray - Shop".

External links[edit]