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Perfect Days ★★★★★



Director: Wim Wenders

Cast: Koji Yakusho, Arisa Nakano, Tokio Emoto, Min Tanaka

Release Date: 9th February 2024 (UK)

Presence goes beyond your aura but extends to your ability to be present. Perfect Days is that presence. It is a film explicitly about the joys of solitude and being present. It’s so hard to make that choice to be present. It’s a daily choice. It’s an exhausting choice. A rewarding choice. Wim Wenders has made many a terrific film on the grandness, universality, and overwhelming nature of living, and yet Perfect Days is the epitome of his filmography. Stylistically, it mixes his narrative lyricism and point-blank documentary approach to unveil that life, as emotionally controlled and present as it is, is still susceptible to the chaos and pain that each of us will be, are, or have been confronted with. In short, Perfect Days is the perfect Wim Wenders tome.

Set in modern-day Tokyo, Perfect Days follows Hirayama, a public toilet cleaner with a love for plants and 70’s & 80’s American road/pop/folk music. Throughout the film, Hirayama tends to his home, reconnects with family, engages with his co-workers, and gets involved with the lives that inhabit a favourite bar of his. His existence is straightforward but never simple.

Perfect Days is a slice-of-life film that shows this slice to be an entire life well lived. Hirayama’s story is about presence and being present, taking a moment to be grateful and recognise what is now, and to leave what is next for what is next. But Wenders is careful not to conflate this with inane happiness; instead, he shows how someone so aware and with such a firm grasp on the present deals with what life throws his way to feel it all thoroughly. To be present is not just to enjoy what is, but for Hirayama, it’s to be here for all of it, to feel the presence of life itself.

The story is stitched together by opaque, black-and-white dream sequences that connect Hirayama’s days, a break from being present to be metaphysical. The juxtaposition is anything but maintaining the 4:3 aspect ratio the film plays in and retains Hirayama’s ability to exist within his mind without lingering or loitering. Even the music has such a range but always creates a harmony of mood and feeling, with a final song and final extended shot so well paired that it has been etched into my mind and heart. With Perfect Days, it’s hard to walk out feeling anything but good.

To spend the time articulating the wonders of Perfect Days’ acting, sound design, and immaculate framing is to, I think, take away from its ultimate point because, of course, they are all phenomenal; the film is breathtaking to behold. But Perfect Days will always be such an essential work of art, and an enduring one for me, because of how blunt it is while being as humane as any film has ever been. Even when actively choosing to be present, our relationships with those close to us and afar will disappoint, our time and skills taken advantage of, and our solitude construed for loneliness, which chooses to be now, not then or next, all the harder to make but equally all the more gratifying. Some people won’t understand the happiness you choose for yourself, but that’s their burden; your contentment is all the comfort and joy you need. To see this, to feel it, was something I desperately wanted but had yet to find before Perfect Days. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart to the depths of my soul, Mr Wenders; you’ve given me something I’ll never let go of: my happiness, my now, is my choice to make.

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