The opening shots of this movie firmly puts it in the Ginza district of Tokyo back in 1951, with its distinct landmark of the Clock Tower, and serves kind of like a documentary snapshot of the district with following the kid Haruo in and around the area, before finally we get to meet his mom Yukiko (Kinuyo Tanaka), a bar hostess struggling to make ends meet.
Directed by Mikio Naruse, this movie doesn’t have any big moments, and feels like a capture of the relatively mundane life of Yukiko, in her luckless meeting with various men who seem always to disappoint, and her taking care of her only son. These are acute observations that represent that slice of life, and doesn’t over-dramatize or wallow in melodrama and the theatrics, which is quite commendable, given the usual tendency for movies of the genre to lapse into. Things happen as a matter of fact, right up until the tense and anxious moments of looking for a runaway kid.
Kinuyo Tanaka brings forth a quiet, stoic demeanour in her Yukiko, being unable to change her fate of being a single mother, and she could make you wring your heart as we experience together with Yukiko a potential moment of probably romance with a young man flit away, despite initial reluctance to get acquainted and help out in his stay in Tokyo. I thought it was quite magnanimous of her to do what she did, and felt that it was really sad for one to resign to her fate without any inclination to challenge it with the hope that things might be for the better.
If you prefer your movies quiet, with the dignified presence of a star actress at her element, then perhaps Ginza Cosmetics would be a launchpad for anyone interested in following the filmography of director Mikio Naruse, and of his many film collaborations with Kinuyo Tanaka.