Shuchiki (Ryu) is a professor and a widower. He lives alone with his only child, daughter Noriko (Hara), who is unmarried at the age of 27. Noriko keeps house for her father while he goes about his academic work. 27 years old is considered verging on Old Maid status in Japan, but Noriko has no real urge to get married and is content to live at home and look after her father. Noriko's Aunt Masa, however, wants her niece to get married before its too late. Masa approaches Shuchiki and he agrees to get Noriko married off, even at the cost of his own happiness.
Compare another Ozu film, Early Summer (1951), which also starred Setsuko Hara as a character named Noriko (but not the same character), and has very similar story elements, with the Noriko character being pressured by her family into an undesired Arranged Marriage. And then there was Late Autumn (1960)—seriously, Ozu was into Theme Naming—which also starred Setsuko Hara, and was a remake of this film, but with Hara playing the role of the parent instead. And then there was An Autumn Afternoon—we weren't kidding about the Theme Naming—which had a similar premise but wasn't so negative about the idea of the marriage.
- Arranged Marriage: Shuchiki and Masa make one for Noriko.
- Celebrity Resemblance: Noriko's proposed match Satake is said to look like Gary Cooper, "the man from that baseball movie."
- Christmas Cake: The peculiar and more extreme Japanese variant of Old Maid, in which a woman older than 25 is thought to be past marriageable age. Shuchiki and Masa are motivated to find Noriko a husband before it's too late.
- Downer Ending: Noriko is basically badgered into a marriage she doesn't want by her father and aunt. Shuchiki for his part is left at home alone, in despair.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Ozu was generally thought to be a conservative who valued Japanese tradition and old-style values, which is why his films are so typically "Japanese", as opposed to Akira Kurosawa who made more West-friendly movies. Critics have observed that this film, made in 1949 when the United States was occupying Japan and American censors were controlling Japanese films, seems to have a carefully hidden message decrying Western values. Note the scene where Noriko and a friend cross a bridge on bicycles, while a sign saying "Drink Coca-Cola" in English is prominent in the foreground. This is often cited as a dig at Western commercialism.
- The Ghost: Satake, the man Noriko is matched up with who is said to resemble Gary Cooper, is never seen.
- Hollywood Darkness: Noriko and Shuchiki retire for the evening and she turns out the light, but a beam coming from somewhere is still artfully lighting her face as she talks to her father.
- Japanese Politeness:
- Noriko still manages to be smiling and cheerful as she tells Prof. Onodera that she finds it "distasteful" and "filthy" that he got remarried after his wife died.
- She is also grinning broadly when she tells her divorced friend Aya "Who are you to lecture me about marriage?"
- Noriko finally drops the Stepford Smiler routine is when she's told that Masa might match up her father with a new wife. She's actually quite upset for most of the rest of the movie.
- Kitchen Sink Drama: A man in late middle age worries about getting his only daughter married.
- Nice Guy: Shuchiki.
- Leave the Camera Running: In one scene Masa is at her tatami mat on the floor when the bell rings on the door. The camera continues to point, fixed, at the tatami mat while Masa walks to the door, going out of focus, and greets her caller. Then the camera still stays on the mat as she walks back and crosses the frame to the right, and only then is there a cut.
- The Matchmaker: Aunt Masa is positively pushy about it."Well, will you marry him? Answer me."
- Signature Shot: Features multiple examples of the Signature Shot of Ozu's career: conversations between two characters framed as shot-reverse shot exchanges in which each character is in the center of the frame.
- Slice of Life: A man in late middle age worries about his daughter getting married before it's too late.
- Stepford Smiler: See Japanese Politeness above. Noriko wears that smile plastered over her face for most of the movie—when she's calling Onodura "filthy", when she's insulting Aya, when she begs her father not to make her get married, and on the day of the marriage she doesn't want.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Shuchiki eventually has to go out of his way to almost force an arranged marriage for his daughter, Noriko. However, he is merely doing it so she can move on and not have to worry so much about him. He loves his daughter like good father would and this makes the forceful choice all the more difficult on him.
"If I left home, Father would be lost."
- Noriko's aunt even more so. She also cares about Noriko's and her growth to maturity. She does seem to be a normal person but she will go even farther and be more controlling than Shuchiki will be.
- Yamato Nadeshiko: Noriko, loyal, loving, gentle, devoted to her father.