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aka - Dare mo shiranai
Japan 2004
Directed by
Hirokazu Kore-eda
141 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars

Nobody Knows

Synopsis: Keiko (You) is a feckless single mother with four children by different fathers and a string of boyfriends. Finding her children an obstacle to her pursuit of happiness, one day she departs, leaving the eldest, Akira (Yûya Yagira), to look after them.

With Nobody Knows writer/director Kore-eda achieves a finely judged work, shot in a realist style but with great delicacy, which if it sanitizes the tawdriness of the real events, which took place in 1988 and were considerably less cinematic, more than adequately compensates for this mollification with its portrayal of the innate strength and vulnerability of childhood, and indeed of the human spirit.. Moreover it does so with great imaginative felicity, telling its story of neglect and abuse with both subtlety and richness, irresistibly giving us moments of heart-wrenching tenderness, joy and sadness in equal measure, moments that are  effective in their restrained realization (and aided marvellously by the unforced cinematography and music).

The performances by the children are wonderfully natural (Yagira who plays the oldest boy was awarded Best Actor at Cannes 2004 for his effort) and despite its length, Kore-eda’s film never strikes a false or histrionic note in what is essentially a tragic story. Even to Western eyes so well does the director depict the anonymous, self-containing politeness of Japanese society that the children’s stoical acceptance of their circumstances becomes completely credible.

There are many wonderful films depicting the indomitable innocence of a child's view of the world including, notably, René Clément's Les Jeux Interdits (1952) and Bryan Forbes’s Whistle Down The Wind (1961). Nobody Knows well deserves to be counted with them.




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