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Film / Wife

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Wife is a 1953 film from Japan, directed by Mikio Naruse.

Toichi and Mihoko Nakagawa (Ken Uehara and Mieko Takamine) are a married couple in post-war Tokyo, whose marriage has gone stale. Financial difficulties are part of the problem: Toichi's career seems to be at a dead end, which has led Mihoko to do piece work at home, and the couple has taken in boarders as well. But in general, after ten years of marriage the Nakagawas are just tired of each other; they stay together more out of inertia than anything else.

That inertia is greatly disturbed when Toichi starts spending time with Fusako, a young widow who is a typist at his work. Suddenly Toichi finds himself falling in love. When Mihoko finds out what is going on with her husband, she has to decide whether to get a divorce or fight for her marriage.



  • Alcohol Hic: A depressed Toichi hiccups while drinking with the artist who boards at the house.
  • The Alcoholic: Mr. Matsuyama, who routinely comes back to the house drunk. After his wife leaves him he comes to her bar and makes a drunken scene, forcing Eiko to flee to the Nakagawas for protection.
  • Beta Couple: A Beta Failed Marriage in the case of Mr. and Mrs. Matsuyama, who are renting a room at the Nakagawa house. Mr. Nakagawa is an alcoholic who can't hold a job. His wife Eiko has gotten work as a bar hostess, and has gotten tired of supporting her drunken, shiftless husband. Eventually she leaves him.
  • Bookends: Both the first and the last scenes have Toichi walking out of the house and going to work, while he and Mihoko both think about how unhappy they are.
  • Dead Sparks: The Nakagawas barely acknowledge each others' existence. Mihoko states openly that her husband has no feelings for her anymore, and Mihoko herself seems to decide to fight for her husband more because she's supposed to than because she cares about him.
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  • Downer Ending: Mihoko and Toichi, who clearly need to get divorced and start new lives apart, wind up staying together. Mihoko doesn't even like her husband but she refuses to divorce him, confronting Fusako, causing Fusako to break up with Toichi and leave town. Toichi misses his chance at happiness and the Nakagawas remain stuck in an unhappy failed marriage. And to top things off, the older woman who came to the house looking for her faithless husband winds up killing herself.
  • Driven to Suicide: The wife of the businessman who's keeping a mistress at the Nakagawa house kills herself.
  • Inner Monologue: The opening scene gives both Toichi and Mihoko inner monologues about how they're unhappy and tired of their spouses.
  • Mirror Character: In the opening scene both Toichi and Mihoko have inner monologues going about how they're dissatisfied with their marriage. Specifically, each of them muses about how they don't know what the other one is thinking.
  • The Mistress: A pudgy businessman rents out a room at the Nakagawa house for his sexy young mistress. She calls him "Daddy".
  • Sweater Girl: Fusako is wearing a snug sweater in her first scene in the office. This contrasts her with Mihoko who wears conservative kimonos.
  • Voiceover Letter: A Voiceover Postcard from Fusako telling Toichi about how she has settled down in Osaka. The arrival of the postcard makes Mihoko very suspicious.