Chishū Ryū did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Shukichi Somiya in Late Spring.
Chishū Ryū's performance as the older father, and professor Shukichi Somiya is a particularly understated one. This is notable though as a challenge in its own way though as it is needed for the tone of the film, but also for the nature of the character. What is remarkable about his work though is how effective it is despite how quiet it is. This is even more notable though because this isn't a performance as a character who is quietly in anguish or anything like that, not truly anyways. This is just a normal man living his life, that we get a window into after he has been widowed sometime before, and his adult daughter Noriko (Setsuko Hara) still lives with him in order to take care of him. Shukichi though is not ailing in any way we meet him just as he lives his life and still performs his duties as a professor. As we see him just sort of go about his day in his rather low key way fitting to a man of his position and age there's a certain charm to Ryū's performance. There isn't anything overt about this he just makes Skukichi this likable old man who expresses his personal knowledge without ego, just as modestly as you'd expect from someone who would rather share it, than brandish it in a way.
This performance though seems a challenge in a particular way in that as a performance it does not have the usual tenets of an inherently compelling performance. If I merely described what Ryū's does in the role, considering how unassuming he is, it may even sound boring, but it's not at all the case. This performance is an exceptional display again of what can be done in silence, and really in appealing to just a simply truth of a person. This is not to say Ryū's performance is even simple by any means, but rather what he does is capture the simplicity of life, but not in a simple way. The years of this man's life are within Ryū's performance that does not seem to have an acted moment within it. Ryū's work is genuine in every regard as you do just feel as though you are meeting the man living the life as he does, but how honest every scene is through his performance. It's interesting in the way he is very much engaging in this approach. He never wrongly acts out yet creates interest in this man by just always showing us to be an unmistakable person, with his own history, we are watching, never just some character created for the confines of this story.
The focus of the story is between the daughter and father. Ryū's and Hara's chemistry is essential to the film. Again it is an unassuming yet remarkable connection that the two realize in their scenes together. As in every moment of their interaction the years of tender affection between the two of them is an accepted if technically often unstated truth. The film focuses though as the father, in part due to pressures of friends and relatives, to attempt to apart his advice for his daughter to marry despite her wanting to stay with him. The original prodding by Shukichi to his daughter, might not seem especially important, yet they way Ryū plays these scenes is pivotal to the eventual end result of the film. Ryū's portrays no desire to rid himself of her, or a single bit of absentmindedness rather only the most sincere warmth as he suggests a potential suitor. Ryū importantly never depicts a pressure in Shukichi's suggestions but only the most earnest support for her. Ryū doesn't make these moments a father trying to force his daughter into anything she doesn't want, but trying to connect her with what he believes will allow her to find some happiness in her life.
The matter seems to become more difficult though when Noriko directly reveals her intention not to marry in order to take care of her father. Ryū's work is quite moving in the quiet reactions in this moment as he creates the sense of appreciation in the father, before the father tries to reject the notion by stating that he intends to remarry. Ryū places still only such a sincerity in his appeal to his daughter, as he does not show any intensity or bitterness in the idea of trying to get his daughter to leave. There is such genuine poignancy that Ryū finds in telling her to leave him and attempt to find her own happiness, because he makes this technical rejection of sorts filled with such heart and such a sense of the very real love the two have shared as father and daughter over the years. He eventually convinces her to be married, and this is where Ryū's performance took me off guard. Now I already thought he was incredibly effective in just giving this authentic modest portrayal of this man, but the extent of the power of this performance removed the floor out from under me in the final minutes of the film. In the final minutes Noriko is married leaving Shukichi to reveal to a friend that he was never going to remarry. Now the revelation of this lie is not a drop of the facade but rather merely a part of the truth of what we had seen of the man through Ryū's heartfelt performance. When he returns home alone for the first time living by himself, Ryū's is absolutely heartbreaking in revealing the loss of the man, the sadness that is in part of letting go. This again is no switch or anything like that. It is as authentic as the rest of his work, and that is what makes it so special in the revelation, though we really always knew it, that the father loved his daughter and will miss being with her. Ryū's work is outstanding as he creates such a eloquent and downright devastating portrait with such seemingly profound grace.