harryblarr’s review published on Letterboxd :
Ikiru has a familiar premise that has been explored and engaged with countless of films, some are more effective than others, but does the message last more than just a brief moment of inspiration? The message the movie wants to send across is a fairly simple one, how to live a life meaningfully, and Ikiru tackles it with a slight different approach.
Akira Kurosawa splits Ikiru down into two essential parts, dependant on each other. The first part is fairly cliché and has a fair share of heavy handed moments. The narrator and narrative itself leave only a small room for thoughts, asking us to only sympathise with Watanabe's final quest for the meaning in his last fleeting moment.
Watanabe has lived 30 years of his life with the same mundane and boring routine, rejecting tasks and were hardly alive. That much is made abundantly clear in the first few scenes. His gastric cancer x-ray film has been the opening shot of the film, the impending moment of doom for Watanabe that sobers him up. He was of course understandingly frustrated but also begin to actively seek changes, from singing "Gondola no Uta" in a midst of carefree folks to being a creepy old man who just wants to lead a life like Toyo, or he refused to just give up his life, so he said.
After the "Happy Birthday" song that celebrates the almost off-screen character, the second part open cold with a Japanese funeral ceremony and a headshot photo of Watanabe. From here on, the movie begin to explore his final moment through lenses of nameless people, showing him detiorating rapidly, adamant effort even over-stepping boundaries and eventually succeeding in his goal. Throughout this part Watanabe's thoughts and emotions are for us to intepret, and with a final moment of him sitting on a swing in the midst of a snowfall, he was happy, the last person to iterate his shared moment with Watanabe said.
Inochi mijikashi, the line echoes after movie ends and whether we were enlightened enough to begin to seek out a meaningful life is what Akira Kurosawa implore us to think, rather than do.