Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Hideko Takamine, Kenji Kasahara
Director: Hiroshi Inagaki
Running Time: 103 mins
The Rickshaw Man is a Japanese film about rural Japan at the turn of the 20th Century, where a poor man working as a rickshaw driver finds himself taking care of a woman and her son after her husband unexpectedly passes away.
This is a really nice film. From the family-friendly and generally uplifting tone of the story to the wonderful production and costume design, this feels just as much like a classic Hollywood period film as any. It’s enjoyable and happy, but it features a genuinely interesting story full of heart and emotion, making for a thoroughly engaging watch throughout.
Let’s start with the performances. The legendary Toshirô Mifune is absolutely brilliant as the mad yet lovable rickshaw driver. Bursting with insane energy throughout, Mifune’s performance makes for so many laughs time and time again, all the while giving a enchanting turn as an incredibly kind man who starts to grow a strong sense of responsibility and love towards the people he begins to look after, which was really lovely to see.
Along with the performances, Hiroshi Inagaki’s direction is instrumental in making this such a pleasant watch. Apart from being as wonderfully colourful and vibrant as anything from Seven Brides For Seven Brothers to The Wizard Of Oz, he gives the film a light-hearted and family-friendly atmosphere right from the start, meaning that you’re always going to be having some pleasant fun with the film, whilst also meaning that the film’s occasional moments of more emotional drama stand out even more.
As well as the direction, the film’s production design is absolutely wonderful to behold. Its small-town feel, emphasised by the simplistic but charming sets, is hugely important in creating that cosy and pleasant atmosphere that makes this such a nice watch, whilst the costume design, ranging from the poor men’s rags to the beautiful and elaborate kimonos worn by the women, is just as vibrant, all coming together to add yet more joy to the film.
I was also really impressed when it comes to the story. Although it’s the sort of plot that you can see coming a mile off, it’s the heart of it all that makes it so engaging. Right the way through, the film tells a wonderful story of a kind-hearted man growing ever closer to a family, and along the way, you do exactly the same. It may occasionally seem a little sappy, but because everything about the film gets you into this cosy and uplifting vibe, it’s not a problem at all.
Overall, I loved The Rickshaw Man. It’s happy, pleasant and full of heart from start to finish, and with wonderfully vibrant directing, excellent production design and an enchanting central performance from Toshirô Mifune, it’s an absolute joy to watch, which is why I’m giving it a 7.9.