Sunday 9th at 10.00 am
Tuesday 11th July at 8.30 pm
RUNNING TIME 140 MINUTES
In present-day Tokyo, young single mother Fukashima Keiko (You) moves into a new apartment with her 12-year-old son Akira (Yagira Yuya). With them are Akira's three younger siblings, all from different fathers, whose existence has been hidden from the landlord and much of the outside world. When their mother disappears, Akira continues to manage the household as usual, though survival becomes more difficult as the days and weeks roll on.
Review by Jake Wilson:
Films about children fending for themselves have a slightly illicit charm. Left alone in their apartment, the young foursome in Hirokazu Kore-eda's Nobody Knows keep their heads down, maintaining the rituals of their small, cosy world. Kore-eda mostly shares their viewpoint, shooting on grainy film stock in colours that suggest a smudged crayon drawing, and patiently recording homely details: hands thumping on a toy piano, a pair of sneakers kicking in the air. Even the "impersonal" long shots of Tokyo are calming, as if the city were a Nature so familiar it barely needed to be observed, with trains passing overhead as regularly as the sun coming up. For long stretches the film is quite beautiful, if you don't fall asleep. The biggest asset is the novelistic pacing, letting the viewer experience the rhythms of daily existence alongside the characters - whose circumstances change so gradually there hardly seems to be a plot at all.
On the evidence of this and his earlier After Life, Kore-eda looks like a sensitive but not strongly original talent. The obvious cross-references for Nobody Knows would include Yasujiro Ozu and Steven Spielberg (who once planned a project called After School about the idle activities of kids waiting for their parents). The tinkling motifs of the score are recycled one too many times, while the ending is a slightly overplayed dramatic coup: an indication, if we needed one, that the film's simplicity is highly artificial, a treat for sophisticated tastes. It's hard to know how far Kore-eda has set a deliberate trap for us as viewers, asking us to indulge in a daydream that impossibly conflates innocence and maturity - an idyll mirrored more troublingly in the eternal childhood of the pixyish mother, whose naughty-girl smile turns abuse and neglect into a game.