Director Shohei Imamura is one of the better-known names of Japanese cinema and here he helms a consistently downbeat drama of miserable lives in a miserable little mining town. Four orphaned siblings struggle against the crushing poverty that threatens to separate them. Unfortunately, no one else in the town is in very good economic shape either. Even though the children receive all the sympathy they need and kind offers of whatever food the townspeople have available, it slowly becomes apparent that their efforts to stay together are woefully unrealistic in the face of economic pressures. Throw in a mining disaster, the poignancy of a supposedly tough storekeeper with a gentle heart, and several heart-wrenching scenes and the sad story slides along the edges of melodrama.
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