The storyline of The Milkwoman is a simple one of unrequited love that despite the passing of decades still remains strong. Now 50 years old, Minako Obha (Yuko Tanaka) lives alone and works two jobs one as a checkout clerk in a supermarket, the other as a milklady, doing her daily round on the hills of Nagasaki. One of her stops is at the house of Kaita Takanashi (Ittoku Kishibe), a government official who tends to his terminally ill wife Yoko (Akiko Nishina). Minako and Kaita used to see each other as school children, but after the death of Minako's mother and Kaita's father, who it seems were having an affair together, their own relationship was destroyed. Lying in her sick bed, Yoko knows however that her husband's feelings for the milklady aren't completely gone and, for the sake of Kaita after she has died, she attempts to engineer a means of bringing them back together.
While the story might be simple, the emotions it deals with and the means by which it expresses them is really where the heart and beauty of the film lie. The film takes its time to show the simple daily routines of each of the characters, their actions being recorded by an old lady who is writing their story for a book while looking after her own husband who is showing signs of dementia. In the process it depicts the social circumstances of people from different ways of life, how they interact with each other on a daily basis, how relationships form, and how past and present can collide. The director handles this marvellously with a strong structure and visual style. It's only later in the film that the story starts to follow a more conventional and inevitably melodramatic path, as if it is indeed being constructed to fit the narrative structure of the book that is being written. It's all validated by the emotional depths the film touches, represented most effectively in the exceptional performance of Yuko Tanaka.
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