In 19th century Japan, beautifully recreated, a young doctor finds himself stuck at an unglamorous, underfunded clinic. His adversary, the head doctor, eventually becomes his mentor, teaching him compassion and humility in the face of the surrounding poverty. Although the main storyline of RED BEARD involves the relationship between these two men, the narrative works more like a collection of short stories. Each minor character shares his or her tale, and the result is a tapestry of tragedy and struggle that ultimately highlights the goodness of humanity. (I do love a film that takes a thoughtful and optimistic view on people.) Toshiro Mifune, in his final role for Kurosawa as the caring director of the clinic, is engaging and moving as ever. But I was also particularly moved by the performance of Terumi Niki, playing a young girl who is rescued from prostitution and mistrust.