Early Spring seems paced with the director's own life pulse. The cutting is totally unobtrusive: the gaze uncluttered by lens refractions, the camera shots delicately held until the naturalistic poet has made his impression. It is the deceptive simplicity of the artist, working within the most primitive articulation, to make his human drama that much more accessible to the widest possible audience, of which he is the primary spectator. In Autumn Afternoon,… the editing could be felt like precise, cutting whiplashes in a contracting expression. Early Spring is one of Ozu's longest, most expansive works, encompassing a larger milieu and interweaving many side characters into the fabric of the hero's life.
Early Spring has a tight thematic core in centering on the vague unrest of a salaried worker at a time of family crisis in a childless marriage and at a critical time of a job transfer; but it is also broad enough to enfold a time, a society, and a way of life. The hero's bleak expectations drag him down to his most bitter hour; but the optimistic credo of the film buoys him along until in a climactic moment with the graying Ozu figurehead, Chishu Ryu, the husband-worker acknowledges that a life can be regenerated and that any time is "the springtime of life." (p. 73)
Tom Allen, "Top Liner," in New York Magazine (copyright © 1974 by News Group Publications, Inc.; reprinted with the permission of New York Magazine), Vol. 7, No. 39, September 30, 1974, pp. 72-3.∗