A Month of Kurosawa: No Regrets For Our Youth (1946)

To celebrate the upcoming release of my book, Akira Kurosawa: A Viewer’s Guide, due out Dec. 15 from Rowman & Littlefield — preorder here! — I’ll be doing capsule reviews all month covering every single Kurosawa film and posting (very) brief excerpts. These will be short impressions and recommendations, nothing more. For a full, detailed analysis of each, grab the book!

No Regrets For Our Youth (1946)

No Regrets For Our Youth was a post-war drama by Akira Kurosawa that mixes equal parts political protest, love triangle, and family drama. Kurosawa’s pictures are virtually always political in some way — he had a tremendous focus on social consciousness — but they were rarely overtly political. Rather, you often had to read between the lines to get his larger message about class distinction and similar topics, especially in action movies like Seven Samurai.

Here, those messages are not masked at all. This film is concerned with three outspoken students, one of them an anti-war political activist, and the tragic paths their lives take during and after World War II.

From the book:

Despite so much discussion of left, right, liberal, authoritarian, fascism, and freedom in the picture, the politics here are individual and personal in nature. The broader scope of political discourse is an afterthought. What’s important is how ideals and idealism can drive, divide, and ultimately guide peoples’ lives.

Perhaps even more notable is that this is a Kurosawa film with a female lead. Women rarely had anything but supporting roles in his work, making No Regrets For Our Youth a rare opportunity to see how he handles stories where macho men aren’t the focus. Best known for her work in Yasujirō Ozu’s Tokyo Story, here Setsuko Hara takes center stage, and she owns this film. She’s a delight to watch.

Though it doesn’t fall into the “essential” category, this is a moving, powerful movie with a stark ending that buries hope within loss. Anyone who enjoys strong human drama should enjoy this one, and Kurosawa fans in particular should be sure to see it.

You can get the movie in this excellent boxed set.