Nick Vass’s review published on Letterboxd:
In contrast to 1953's other canonized Japanese drama (Tokyo Story), this just may eclipse it for me. There's a sense of balance which feels remarkably calming from the opening sequences. The long crane shot of Genjiro's hut, the beautiful moments where he admires kimonos, some candle-lit interiors in vivid monochrome, and even the justly celebrated love scene by sparse trees and a shimmering lake. These are all abounded in cinematic beauty.
I also thought it was a beguilingly peculiar film. You don't see any of the extraneous performances which have plagued preceding Japanese films and there's an unfathomably great deal of content despite its simple storytelling.
What initially appeared as Kurosawa-like (struggling peasants just trying to make a living) evolved into much more. A tragic romance, a socially conscious morality tale, and ultimate a ghost story. On that second aspect (which it primarily focuses on), this is a curious moral for a Western perspective. Sure you can work hard, but not too ambitiously, for a life that is more about acceptance than excess can lead to the loss of your loved ones.
I was transported into the realm for dreams and the heartbreaking consequences of greed. The haunting sadness lingers long after in this strange, wailing and illuminating classic.