Film #145: Nobody Knows (2004)

nobodyknowsaka: 誰も知らない (Dare mo shiranai)
Director: Koreeda Hirokazu
Language: Japanese
Length: 140 minutes
Watched on: March 28 2015

Along with the previous Japanese movie I watched, I picked this up in the UK with my Christmas money. The director, Koreeda, seems to be one of the more well-known Japanese directors abroad, and this is often considered his tour de force. I knew a few scant facts about the movie before I watched it: it’s based on a true story of parental abandonment in Tokyo, and the movie predominantly features child actors.

In the movie, the central family moves into a new apartment at the beginning, but it’s obvious that they’re sneaking around and trying to hide something – presumably that they’re trying to squeeze four children and their mother into a one room apartment, the setting of which gives the film a very claustrophobic atmosphere. Only the oldest child, 12 years old, is allowed to leave the apartment and run errands. Then the mother takes off with a new boyfriend, and only returns once before never being seen again. The film then depicts the slow decline into squalor of the other children.

Despite being grisly at times and ultimately heartbreaking, the film seems optimistic about its protagonists’ fates – most of them, anyway. Seasons are used effectively throughout, as the film shows the summer heating up to unbearable levels. It is preoccupied with the oldest child, socially isolated while he is unable to attend school, and he seems to be the main character of the work, if any.

Much has been said of Koreeda’s method of directing the children. He essentially left them to their own devices and captured the best of their reactions. It seems implied that no plot details were planned out in advance. I thought this was the most effective part of the whole story: I remember looking at the younger, boisterous boy in particular and thinking that he was acting very similar to the kids I used to teach in my last job.

In any case, because I had the passing familiarity with the real case – which, incidentally, is a lot more gruesome than the movie’s story as it involves an element of sexual abuse and features an infant corpse – I was expecting the children to be taken into custody at some point. And actually, that didn’t happen. The landlord discovers them living in squalor when she comes around to collect rent, but she seems to be from Ebisu or Shirogane, with a tiny toy dog in her handbag – the Japanese equivalent of a bimbo. She appears briefly in one scene, then stumbles away never to be heard from again. That kind of thing is what makes me think the whole thing is ultimately kinder on the children than real life was.

Overall, it’s a very affecting movie, and I was left thinking about it for days afterward. Considering its subject matter, it’s not for the faint of heart, but I’d certainly recommend it.

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One Response to Film #145: Nobody Knows (2004)

  1. Pingback: Book #86: Bear, Otter, and the Kid (2011) | reuoq

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