For me, the purpose of art lies in its remind us of the value of life, both the good and the bad, and to prepare us for the inevitable end of life. Make Way For Tomorrow does not paint a pretty picture of old age, but it is a picture resonates with our present times. An elderly couple finds themselves being evicted from their home, they are forced to move in with their children, who have no time for their parents, and by the end of the film the couple is torn further apart when one of them is sent of too California for financial and health reasons. The entire idea is soul crushing, there is a nice comedic levity, brought to the film by director Leo McCarey and a parade of writers – the screenplay was adapted from a novel, play, and poem.
Make Way For Tomorrow went on to inspire Tokyo Story, one of my all-time-favorite films. McCarey has the same delicate touch Ozu has for balancing the gravity of drama without losing site of the small comedic moments we all cling to, just to survive. I had seen other McCarey films, all of the comedies, and I suppose the old saying that comedy is harder than drama is true, still I was surprised at the emotional levels of this film. I am sure such down-beaten stories are box office gold, but I really wish McCarey could have existed in a time or system that would have allowed him to continue to explore the issue of coming to terms with life’s hardships, in the same way Ozu was allowed to do so in Japan.
During his video interview about the film, Peter Bogdanovich makes an astute point about directors like McCarey, Capra, and Ford not dreaming of being film directors when they matured, but being something else, lawyers, chemists, truck drivers, etc. Things you might call real-world jobs. He attributes this connection to the common man as being one of the reasons their films have such a strong human touch. I have to agree and I really do think a great deal of film has become an echo chamber, detached from life.