The Girl I Loved ★★★½

An early film by Keisuke Kinoshito and the first one he also wrote. The story is very simple: A baby girl is taken in by a rural cow-herding family after her mother commits suicide and is raised with love as one of their own. As she grows into adulthood, the elder brother in the family falls in love with her but she instead falls in love with a local intellectual. But the depiction of life in rural post-war Japan and the pain of unrequited love and sacrifice are nicely depicted.

There are allusions to WWII in that the two rivals for the young girl are both returning soldiers and one (the intellectual) has been badly crippled. There is a touching scene when the two men converse in a field, where the crippled solider expresses no regrets and is genuinely glad to still be alive. But the war is mostly a backdrop to the story of a hoped-for love that is lost.

The film has beautiful photography and wonderful closeups of not only the leads but also the secondary characters. The scenes of mountains, fields, cattle and horses set the backdrop and there is an idealization and sentimental quality to farmlife that is touching and not grating. nd I was quite impressed by the lead actor Yasumi Hara. A simple film but quite lovely, and it makes me want to see more of Kinoshita's work.

Available to stream through the Criterion Channel.