Isao Numasaki did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Yuzo in One Wonderful Sunday.
One Wonderful Sunday is Akira Kurosawa's last film before his first collaboration with the one and only Toshiro Mifune, and concerns a far more average sort of individual as played by Isao Numasaki, any actor with few credits to his name. The film follows very simply a day between the man, Yuzo and his fiancee Masako (Chieko Nakakita). One of the reasons I so enjoyed the film actually was how natural and simple of a film it is, aside from its questionable choice to break the fourth wall. A great deal of credit for this needs to go to Numasaki and Nakakita for this. We are introduced to the two of them as people who want to be together, this is not about a growing romance the romantic angle is suppose to be a given. It is given because of their chemistry with one another. This is very notable though because they do not create this sort of grand love for one another rather they establish the time the two have been together instead. There is the right comfort the two bring in their interactions that suggest simply the right understanding that they love each other to the point that they don't really even need to say it all that much, it is indeed a given.
Numasaki's performance actually made me a bit surprised he has so few credits to his name given just how genuine he is as a performer. He brings this innate likability to Yuzo because he comes across as such an honest sort. There is nothing in Numasaki's work that ever seems off in the least and it's with this that helps the film work as well as it does. Numasaki is able to create such sympathy by feeling so real in his performance. Numasaki has such a downright perfect sort of screen presence by having such an easy and unassuming performance style. Never does it feel like you're witnessing this sort of character, instead you're simply watching a man attempting to go on this date of sorts. Numasaki simply is Yuzo here as Nakakita simply is Masako, and together they are this young couple. Importantly though Numasaki though still is always engaging never becoming stale in his portrayal instead he finds what is so interesting in the understated man that Yuzo is. Now with this date of sorts we are given the tone of the film which gives us the bitter with the sweet.
Isao Numasaki's performance is incredibly effective in terms of capturing every situation with such intimate detail and nuance. In the early scenes he's incredibly moving by portraying the quiet shame in the man, an his loss of enthusiasm as he speaks about their lack of money that makes it so they not only can't live together but can barely do much on their date. Numasaki is very good in establishing the somewhat sorrowful state of Numasaki which he portrays in such a quiet yet affecting way. Numasaki carefully avoids any melodrama in this showing it more of Yuzo's predisposition to start thinking of his troubles. Numasaki shows this so authentically in the way he just sort of seizes up in his whole physical state and only speaks in these somber tones. Numasaki does not overwhelm yet presents this as the place Yuzo basically reverts to whenever he's reminded of just how little he has. There are times for distraction though as Yuzo decides to join a children's baseball game. Numasaki is incredibly endearing in the scene by bringing such enthusiasm in this moment of fun. This is quick transition when this happens yet Numasaki makes entirely work by just how genuine he is in the part. Numasaki so well realizes the way a distraction of joy can exist from time to time even when in a bad state overall.
Numasaki's performance finds the right wavelength of sorts as he creates a believable dynamic throughout the day/film. He so convincingly falls to his lowest point in a heartbreaking scene where Numasaki shows the sorrow overwhelm him for a moment, as he even lashes out a bit at Masako. Numasaki again does not overplay importantly instead playing the moment in a subtle fitting to a man being drowned in his sadness. He is pulled up from it but again Numasaki makes this so eloquent and gradual. It never seems like a requirement of the film, it feels like what should happen next and that is through Numasaki's convincing performance. Numasaki even manages to fulfill the other extreme near the end of the film where he becomes his most jubilant by faking conducting an orchestra to be entertained by. A very poignant scene as Numasaki though does not show a madness there, but rather just instead reflects a man gaining back just the right amount of hope in order to find some joy in life again. This is beautiful work from Numasaki as it represents the highs and lows of life with such grace, creating such powerful empathy for this story of two people simply trying to share a day together.