Mikio Naruse had one consistent statement throughout the decades of his varied career as a filmmaker: the necessity of making money to live has a long term, fundamentally destructive influence on families and individuals. His 1933 silent film, Nightly Dreams (夜毎の夢), like several of his other silent films is a more simplistic take on this idea than the more psychologically complex films he would make in the 50s and 60s. The story of a Ginza waitress struggling to raise a child taking on the added burden of an ashamed and jobless husband doesn't get much more complicated than that but Naruse shows his talent for creating tension with shot sequences and subtle blocking of actors.
Omitsu (Sumiko Kurishima) is barely getting by, her job as a waitress not even giving her enough money for her own place. She and her five or six year old son, Fumio (Teruko Kojima), live with some friends whose home seems to be little more than a shack.
Omitsu's work involves having to indulge the attentions of misbehaving drunks. One night a sea captain overhears her asking her boss for money and immediately offers her a wad of bills. She has to accept it but the worried look on both her and her boss's faces communicates to us they know this will inevitably lead to trouble.
Her husband, Mizuhara (Tatsuo Saito), Fumio's father, shows up one night--he'd apparently left her and the kid some time ago for reasons the film never explains. But given his difficulty finding work throughout the rest of the film, and his shame at being a burden, perhaps it's easy to guess. His possessiveness of Omitsu also makes it even harder for her to do her job.
The actors are good and Naruse has great skill but there's not much deviation from or florish to this very straightforward story except for one scene where Omitsu's friend is eating sushi. I keep seeing old Japanese movies where people eat sushi all wrong according to the rules I hear at sushi restaurants--they almost never eat whole pieces with one bite, for example. This woman also finds hers has too much wasabi--the title cards doesn't need to explain why she suddenly winces and holds her nose.