Reiko knew her husband for only a few months. After he died in World War II, the young widow stayed on with her in-laws and ensured the survival of the family’s grocery. Eighteen years of joyful effort, inspired by Reiko’s untiring devotion to her late husband. Naturally, the feelings she seems to have for his young brother have no place in this established order.
Yearning, one of Mikio Naruse’s last films, is a paragon of his work. Skilfully articulating the painful friction in Japanese society between tradition and the present, the filmmaker explores head-on several of his favourite themes. First, the status of women and wives, by taking an attentive and benevolent view of the love that bonds a man to a woman ten years his senior. Then, money and the lack of it, with the emergence of supermarkets that ruthlessly drive small traders bankrupt. Against this sometimes sombre backdrop, Hideko Takamine is free to interpret the hundred nuances of a suppressed “yearning”. Deeply moving, Naruse’s favourite actress illuminates the film with her presence.