Nobody Knows (Japan; 141 min.)


directed by: Hirokazu Koreeda
starring: Yûya Yagira; Ayru Kitaura; Hiei Kimura; You
Dare mo shiranai
 
Michael says: "Eschewing the dreamlike mystery of DISTANCE and MABOROSI, and the mystical backdrop of AFTER LIFE, Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda grounds his latest film in the harsh realities of modern day. Akira is the protagonist, a pre-teen, the oldest of four children, who find themselves left alone to fend for themselves in a world where they have no power, and precious few resources. The children’s mother, Keiko, is flighty and irresponsible, depending on Akira to care for the family while she works, and takes increasingly longer trips away from home. When it appears that Keiko has left for good, Akira tries to keep the family going, but he eventually falls prey to the lure of a normal teen-aged life. Meanwhile, food is dwindling, bills are not getting paid, and his younger siblings have lost any sort of authority figure. Kore-eda is a masterful director, telling this story, loosely based on a true account, in a naturalistic style without a lot of emotional manipulation. Fourteen-year-old Yuya Yagira won the Best Actor award at Cannes for his powerful performance as Akira. 4 ½ cats"
 
Chris says: "Hirokazu Koreeda's films are as inimitable and challenging as Tsai Ming-Liang's, even though stylistically, the two Asian directors are poles apart. Where Tsai deliberately slows down time to the point where a natural action seems like a distortion, Koreeda's latest lets the action naturally flow as if the viewer were observing or eavesdropping something outside their bedroom window.

"I make light of this because it's essential to embracing/understanding NOBODY KNOWS. While the film's unaffected pace should logically seem like the most approachable thing in the world, it's different from most films. In other words, it's slow, but not measured, arty, or self-conscious. I initially had so much trouble getting used to these rhythms that I kept dozing off during the first half hour. Fortunately, I adjusted to them and felt more and more involved during the remainder.

"On the surface, this is a simple story that could've been the basis for a slice of post-war Italian neorealism: a family of four children ranging in age from five to twelve is abandoned by its mother and left to fend for themselves in a cramped Tokyo apartment. We follow them through a whole year as dirty laundry piles up, utilities are shut off and plants in used plastic microwavable noodle bowls grow on the veranda. The eldest child, Akira (Yûya Yagira, a deserving Cannes winner for Best Actor) does what a twelve-year-old can to take care of his siblings. While the film is about perseverance, it's not a Disney-friendly fable about these kids magically overcoming near-impossible odds, but something more realistic.

"At times sweet and poignant and at others, disquieting and a little sad, this was a beautiful but difficult film to watch because you become so emotionally involved without feeling cheap about it. I was most impressed that Koreeda never sermonized or encouraged us to pity these children. Nobody Knows isn't a societal critique or a melodrama; I'm not really sure how to categorize it, as much of the film just follows a potentially tragic situation playing itself out with honesty and grace. 4.5 cats"
 
Diane says: "Without a pinch of sentimality, Koreeda shows us four kids left to their own devices after their mother, the most child-like of them all, gets a better offer. Was considering Yuya Yagira for a best actor nom--as oldest sibling, he must take the awesome responsibility for all of them, yet try not to let his anxiety show, and he speaks his feelings in only one line in the whole film--but I'm going to go for Best Cast. Koreeda uses some nice time gauges: fingernail polish has worn off, once fresh crayons are down to nubs. I regretted that the movie had to be so long, but every shot is significant. Best director nom, too. 4 cats."