Yoji Yamada's Twilight Samurai, the first in his thematic trilogy along with The Hidden Blade and Love and Honor, explores a very human side of a samurai living in 19th century Japan. Iguchi Seibei, a low-ranking Samurai, loses his wife to tuberculosis, becoming a widower responsible for his two daughters - who are absolutely adorable throughout the film. He becomes known as the "Twilight Samurai" because he must rush home each evening after work to care for his daughters and elderly mother rather than engage in their revelry.
The reason Yamada's film is so effective is that it portrays Seibei as a person with whom virtually everyone can relate. He is shown as human and vulnerable, which is a stark contrast to the more traditionally depicted warrior-spirited samurai of the jidai-geki of Kurosawa and Inagaki. Instead, we see a family man, a father caring for his daughters. We see a son caring for his mother, whom he loves deeply. We see a shy man, nervous and flustered when in the presence of his childhood love.
Twilight Samurai, although not the best film in Yamada's trilogy, is a touching, and at times powerful humanistic portrayal of a samurai who is unheroic by the standards of his society, and yet does not desire to be. Yet, he demonstrates true heroism in the actions of his life, struggling to do the best he can, in many of the same contexts that we experience in a culture and time so far removed from his.