Nobody Knows (2004)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Childhood Drama, Urban Drama  |   Release Date - Feb 4, 2005 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 141 min.  |   Countries - Japan   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Josh Ralske

Hirokazu Koreeda's Nobody Knows offers an intelligent and compassionate glimpse into the lives of four abandoned children, their unique resourcefulness, and their tragic inability to survive indefinitely on their own. It's an engrossing, occasionally wonderful drama. It's more in line with the perceptive naturalism and subtextual symbolism of his previous film, Distance, than with the singular brilliance of After Life. While it's based on an actual incident that occurred in Japan in 1988, it also bears a strong resemblance to Isild Le Besco's Demi-Tarif, which takes place in Paris, but is also about a group of siblings surviving alone with a mother who briefly flits in and out of their lives. Nobody Knows takes a more subdued, realistic, and responsible to the situation than the French film's unmediated anarchy. It's a more traditional narrative, moving inexorably toward tragedy and not quite as astonishing as Le Besco's. That said, Koreeda gets strong, affecting performances from his young cast, and it's impossible not to be moved by their plight and heartened by their resilience. But they still function better as symbols of societal neglect and indifference than as fully realized characters. Koreeda's earthbound approach allows him to address this theme without being too heavy-handed about it, but his movie runs a bit too long to sustain it. Even the name of the actress he's cast as the children's flighty, selfish mother (Japanese television star YOU) serves his larger purpose.