This certainly was a departure from the earlier propaganda films Kurosawa made. The political content here ties in nicely with the characters and themes of the story; there’s no clunky government-mandated message at odds with the story Kurosawa is trying to tell. An interesting take on idealism and how time, aging, and certain circumstances can affect it.
Setsuko Hara delivers a strong performance as the protagonist, having to dive into that kind of melodramatic emoting Kurosawa seems to like from his actors, but remaining likable and relatable throughout. The scope of the story expands as the film goes on, but everything remains tethered to her emotional journey.
In terms of the more cinematic qualities, there are not too many flourishes here, but there’s a neat sequence where a bunch of fast cuts are used to communicate the protagonist’s indecisiveness in a certain decision.
This is far from Kurosawa’s heights as a filmmaker, but is still a good film and a well-told story. I give it two and a half days in the rice fields, and an abandoned piano.