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(In subtitled Japanese)
141 minutes | Unrated
LIMITED: Friday, February 18, 2005
Written & directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda
Starring Yagira Yuya, Kitaura Ayu, Kimura Heii, Shimizu Momoko, Kan Hanae, You
Kore-eda's drama about abandoned children strikes emotional, artistic chords in 'Nobody Knows'
In a similar vein to Steven Soderbergh's "King of the Hill," Hirokazu Kore-eda's "Nobody Knows" tells the story of four Japanese children left to fend for themselves when their mother flits off for a long-distance romance. For anyone with a conscinence, it's an extremely difficult film to watch, but Kore-eda's accomplished artistry makes up for a great deal of emotional discomfort.
His camera focuses on tiny bits of evidence: a broken crayon, a Styrofoam cup used as a planter, or a child lighting a gas stove by herself. Some of this is meant as foreshadowing and some is not -- which adds to the uncertainty of the situation and the constant questions that the children must be asking themselves.
Kore-eda, the director behind the now-classic "After Life," gets wonderfully natural performances from his young cast, and uses the story's limited locations to maximum effect. At first the children follow their mother's orders and stay exclusively inside; she has lied to the landlord and told him about only one of her children. But as their hope dwindles, they become more and more careless and we begin to see more of the outside world.
Kore-eda understands the need for small rewards within such a bleak story, and he gives one to us in the form of the children's first day of fun in the outdoors. In the end, however, it's a film to appreciate and admire, but one that's difficult to adore.