In this second installment of the series, “Early Summer” (1951) the Noriko character has several differences from her situation in the first movie. Here she lives in a house with both her parents and also her older brother’s family. The older brother is a doctor and has a wife and two young sons. Noriko has a clerical position in a commercial firm. She has reached the age where her parents are starting to worry that she has not yet married. Her employer hears of this and suggests that a friend of his would make a very suitable husband. The fact that he is about fifteen years older than Noriko and comes from a higher social stratum than Noriko doesn’t strike her family as a problem. Noriko’s brother and parents apply continuous pressure to get her to agree to the arranged marriage. Noriko talks to her married and single friends and confides that she has great reservations about this match.
One of her neighbors is a doctor, a friend of her brother’s named Kenkichi Yabe. Kenkichi is moving to a remote rural area to assume a government medical position. He is a widower with a child and Noriko has always felt close to him. Kenkichi’s mother, Tami is also a good friend of Noriko’s. While she is preparing for the move Tami mentions to Noriko that she had always hoped that her son would have married Noriko. Impulsively Noriko agrees to marry the widower. The mother is overjoyed and tells her son who also seems pleased with the idea of marrying Noriko and have her share his new life in the country.
But Noriko’s parents and other family are shocked and distressed. They feel that Noriko is throwing away a privileged and desirable marriage to raise another woman’s child and live in a less affluent and less interesting environment. They try to change her mind. But she is adamant and they eventually become reconciled to her decision. When she speaks to her family about her sudden choice, she reveals that the idea of marriage wasn’t the thing she was afraid of but rather she feared being in an environment without friendship. When Tami unexpectedly mentions her wish for Noriko to be her daughter-in-law it provided Noriko with an avenue to combine marriage with a familiar and friendly environment. She would start out with a mother-in-law who was already on her side.
The movie ends with the family preparing for the various changes that are occurring. Noriko is preparing for her marriage and move to the country. And her parents are moving in with an uncle who has a large house that they will stay in from then on. In this way the son will have more room for his growing family. All of these things are seen as the natural progression for the time in each of their lives.
“Early Summer” is not fraught with the tragedy of loneliness found in “Late Spring.” But it plays up the anxieties that young women are prey to as their families barter their lives in the old practice of arranged marriages. What Noriko wisely and luckily chooses is to combine her natural role as a bride and a mother with the opportunity of holding onto the familiar and proven relationship with the Yabes. Her chances of living a happy, if less affluent, life are improved immensely. This is seen as a consequence of a woman’s changing role in post-war Japan.
Early summer is a pleasant film with some engaging characters and much human interest. I find “Late Spring” a more compelling movie but “Early Summer” makes an interesting variation on the theme of young women in post-war Japan. I think it is well worth the time to view after the first installment has been watched.