Peter Bradshaw “The heart-wrenching performance of Setsuko Hara, Ozu's quiet muse” http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/filmblog/2010/jun/16/setsuko-hara-birthday-tokyo-story
She had a recurring role as Noriko in a trilogy of Ozu films: Late Spring (1949), Early Summer (1951) and Tokyo Story (1954), the first of which was reworked as Late Autumn (1960). Of these, it is Tokyo Story – routinely hailed as one of the best films ever made – that can never be forgotten once seen, and Setsuko Hara's exquisite performance is surely a vital part of what makes this film Ozu's masterpiece. It is about an elderly married couple who make the tough journey to the big city to visit their busy grown-up children, only to find that they have no time for their parents, and the only person who does is their daughter-in-law Noriko, played by Hara. She is the widow of the son who is still listed missing presumed killed in the second world war. This vulnerable old couple are the only link she has to her husband: they are the only people it makes sense for her to love, and she appears to be the only person who loves them. Her desperately polite smile, her dignity and the quiver of heartbreak in her voice are absolutely captivating. I defy anyone to watch this film and not feel simply overwhelmed with a kind of love for Hara – however absurd that may sound.
Again, it is her politeness which is so heart-wrenching, a submissive politeness in many ways, but a politeness which crucially gives her dignity, bearing and status in excess of the men. Ozu had his Hara in a way that, perhaps, Almodóvar has his Cruz. She distilled a certain essence of his films.