Uplifting the Voices of Princeton Day School

The Spokesman

Uplifting the Voices of Princeton Day School

The Spokesman

Uplifting the Voices of Princeton Day School

The Spokesman

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Perfect Days is a Perfect Film


Perfect Days is a movie I enjoyed throughout the entirety of its runtime, but went unrecognized by many casual movie viewers. After all, it was first released in film festivals in the latter half of 2023, only making it to U.S. theaters and digital services over the past month. This is unfortunate because, after watching it, I think the film deserves more recognition. 

To summarize, the movie’s story is told with a “day-in-the-life” structure, showing the main character, Hirayama, moving through his daily routine as a restroom attendant in Tokyo, Japan. Throughout the runtime, we are shown how he takes time for his own personal hobbies and generally appreciates the beauty that the world around him has to offer. 

The first thing viewers might notice is the interesting aspect ratio (the ratio of the width to height of the screen). It is shot in 4:3, which dedicated movie fans will recognize as the common aspect ratio for films in the early 1900s through the early 2000s. This choice helps give the compact feeling that the film tries to achieve. Viewers will also notice how vibrant the colors are. Regardless of whether the setting is in the bright afternoon sun or a gray, rainy morning, the scenes are always lit so that every single color is beautifully saturated. Every single frame in this film looks stunning. 

For people who generally watch faster paced, action-centric movies, this description probably isn’t very appealing. However, while the film isn’t heavy on plot, it encourages viewers to interpret the story in many ways. One aspect that definitely helps with that is Hirayama’s lack of dialogue. The viewer learns early in the film that Hirayama cannot speak, but it is never explained as to why. This leaves his character open to audience interpretation while also adding to the peaceful and serene mood that his life is represented with.

The movie is also able to engage the audience with its usage of sonder–the realization that complete strangers have lives as complex as one’s own, despite any potential lack of awareness of it, showing how Hirayama’s life can intertwine, briefly meet, or clash with the other people in his life. We aren’t shown more about those other characters besides the interactions they have with Hirayama, so the audience is left wondering more and filling the gaps about what happens beyond the screen. The film also addresses how sonder can be intimidating: Imagining the lives of others reveals just how huge the world can be, and that can sometimes leave the person affected by it feeling small and overwhelmed. The film portrays sonder in a way that makes the world around Hirayama feel neither like something that is too huge for the audience to grasp nor something that can be summed up thoroughly within the film’s runtime or without the imagination of the viewer. 

After watching the film, some may say it advocates “worker/hustle culture.” In fact, Eileen Jones of Jacobin.com has criticized the film as being “a fantasy of escape…that appeals to the affluent,” citing the fact that it shows very little outside struggle beyond his occupation. However, I would disagree and say that the film presents these aesthetic life choices as a “what-if” scenario to send the message of appreciating life despite doing what would otherwise be considered boring tasks.In the film, Hirayama has multiple hobbies that he consistently returns to everyday, and just as they break up the film so it doesn’t become monotonous, activities like these can help add variety and be a good change of pace from everyday life. These range from longer activities such as reading a book at the end of each day to simply taking a photo during his lunch break. 

Ms. Matlack gave me her own perspective on the film’s theme about finding beauty within boredom: “I think there is peace in the mundane,” she explained. “I love listening to and playing music, and gardening. Some people might find those tasks tedious, monotonous, or boring, but I find it productive and they are great outlets for self expression. It’s always important to have downtime between super exciting things to truly appreciate life. There are ‘highs’ and ‘lows,’ and sometimes you need the ‘steady’ to recalibrate.” Patrick Longman, a junior, also added: “I personally think it’s more important to do ‘boring stuff’ during non-stressful times because it is the best time to relax and recharge.”

This then made me wonder if she had any recommendations to students for dealing with dull or repetitive tasks that they may find themselves doing. She responded: “It’s beneficial to be alone with your thoughts sometimes. Having hobbies or side interests definitely helps. I think that’s really important, to spend time focusing on things that bring you joy and keep you centered and present. I think people don’t really know how to be bored anymore, which would be my main piece of advice: be bored.” 

Overall, Perfect Days is a visually striking and engaging movie. While it may not be heavy on plot or exciting action, it has a great message and an optimistic outlook on life that should not be overlooked. I would highly recommend this film to any student/teacher. 

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