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Shuswap Film Society: Tokyo toilet cleaner embraces routine in Perfect Days

Cinemaphile by Joanne Sargent
Perfect Days plays at 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 27 at the Salmar Classic. (Photo contributed)

By Joanne Sargent


A movie about a man who cleans toilets in Tokyo?

Yes, it’s called Perfect Days and it’s really good. But don’t expect an adrenaline-pumping thrill ride. This film is not quick-paced or rushed. Its beauty lies in the absence of drama, and if you’re open to a slow meditative journey that celebrates the ordinary, Perfect Days will stay with you.

Hiroyama seems utterly content in his simple routine of cleaning public toilets in bustling Tokyo. Each day he diligently cleans the lavatories, before returning to his very modest home. He takes pleasure in his hobbies of reading, photography, growing plants and listening to music–his taste being mostly iconic 60s and 70s rock on cassettes. Every time he leaves his home to go to work or on the weekends to do chores, he looks up and smiles. He is a man who has found contentment and fulfillment in his simple, orderly and routine life.

He has limited interaction with people, but his ordered life is briefly upset when his teenage niece comes to stay with him for a few days, having run away from home. Although he hasn’t seen her for years, they quickly bond, with his unquestioning acceptance of her presence in his life offering her stability, and perhaps she finds his quiet simplicity an antidote to the materialistic way she lives her own life. When her mother, his sister, comes to collect her, in an expensive car with a driver, it suggests an estrangement and it becomes clear he has chosen this lifestyle over others he could have pursued.

Hiroyama is a man who finds beauty in the everyday and whose joy is infectious. There’s a lot we can learn from him. The movie is a poignant reminder that happiness doesn’t necessarily reside in grand gestures or chasing dreams; sometimes the most Perfect Days are ones that are the most ordinary.

Subtitled, Perfect Days plays at 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 27 at the Salmar Classic.

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