The cranes are flying all right, right over two lovers in Moscow on the eve of WWII. But the war of course interrupts their idyll, and Boris (Aleksei Batalov) is sent to the front, leaving Veronica (Tatyana Samojlova) behind to fend off his cousin (and draft-exempted) Mark (Aleksandr Shvorin). Distraught, Veronica eventually marries Mark and enlists as a nurse, secretly hoping that despite the lack of communication, he's still alive.

But of course, Boris is dead, and the bulk of the film deals with Veronica's guilt over her abandonment of her sweetheart without actually knowing his fate.

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