Yearning ★★★★

A beautiful but sad film by Naruse, once again highlighting the plight of women in Japanese society amidst the changes of the post-war era. It features two compelling leads: the always moving Hideko Takamine as a war widow who's stayed on her deceased husband family, single-handedly reviving the failing family business (a liquor store) and selflessly devoting herself to their well-being, and the younger son (Yuzo Kayama) who is a bit of a ne'er do well but also secretly attached to his sister-in-law.

The awakening love between these two runs up against major taboos in Japanese culture - their age difference and the family's desire to have the widow gone, not to mention the unseemly issue of a widow marrying her deceased husband's younger brother. As with so many Naruse films, it highlights the bind Japanese women (and especially older women) find themselves in. A secondary theme is big supermarkets that offer huge discounts replacing the older cultural model of local storeowners and their customers in the community - kind of precursor of both Walmart and Amazon.

The story ends tragically and emotionally. But it's well told and beautifully acted. I caught it on the Criterion Channel, where it is part of their very large Japanese film collection.