Setsuko Hara plays Fumiko, whose unsuccessful marriage has made her become more and more cynical. When her niece, Ayako visits and complains about her own marriage, she is unsurprised. Meanwhile, a new couple, whose marriage is similarly unblissful, moves in next door. The two couples create a very awkward bond that could ruin both marriages, but everyone seems to be aware and nobody cares either way.
A bit of a departure here for Naruse. Certainly he’s touched on the subject of dysfunctional marriages in the past, but not quite in the cynical and literal way he does in this film. At times, it’s a perfect example of just how funny he can be (Fumiko dogs: “Better than a human, being at least.”) but I suppose he also sacrifices some of his usual observational qualities. In truth, this feels a bit like a silly old Hollywood screwball with Todd Solondz-esque humor. It’s fast, it’s witty, it’s fun, and so on but it never really begins to go beyond the surface of “jeez, married life really blows!”
The thing with Naruse’s humor in his other films from the 50s, is that there is always an emotional context, so to speak. The humor in this film is more pronounced but far less poignant: it’s sort of sugarcoating real emotional trouble as oppose to finding the humor inside of it. The humor found in films like Lightning and Flowing come from showing the truth. I suppose there’s no outright examples of this, but I kept thinking of this theory while watching Sudden Rain. Every once in awhile, it’ll feel like a Raymond Carver book, what with people dissecting their own relationships. As great as Naruse was at writing dialogue, he did go a little bit over the top in this case. You can’t make too many compotent criticism against the film, though, as it seems like Naruse just wanted to do a very cynical but very funny film, if only to show his comedic boundaries.