Nobody Knows

Nobody Knows, an extraordinary film from Japanese director Kore-Eda Hirokazu, is a heartbreaking and touching story about how selfish a single mother can be to her four children, and how resilient children can be. Kicked out of several apartments for her large brood, Keiko (Japanese pop star You) sneaks them in to a new one (two inside the suitcases) and goes over the house rules: No loud noises. They must stay hidden inside the apartment all day, every day. Only Akira, the oldest, leaves to do grocery shopping while she works. He also makes dinner while Keiko goes out on dates (implying to her children that she’s looking for a rich husband so that they can all live in a big house together). One day, Keiko (not a villain, but an unsympathetic, helium-voiced child herself) announces she’s going away for a few weeks to work. She soon emerges every few months, only to drop off money before taking off again, at one point, for good. Akira forgoes any normal 12-year-old’s upbringing (even school) to play mother, father, even Santa Claus to his siblings. There’s a trapped feeling in Nobody Knows. For the younger kids, it’s the inability to escape to the outside world. For Akira, it’s seeing the outside world and knowing he has too many responsibilities to participate in it—when he tries, the results are disastrous. As the children grow up and resources become more scarce, the film’s tenacity to show every painful detail of their existence slows the pace to almost a standstill. Still, it’s a lovely, haunting tale beset with unforced performances from its young actors, particularly Yagira, who won the best actor prize at Cannes. — Ellen A. Kim
Year Released
Average: 4 (1 vote)


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Bleak but wonderful child actors give a boost

Field of Interest/Specialty: Asian Studies
Posted On: 01/19/2012

This film is not something I would ever show in a classroom, although it gives a very good look at contemporary Japan from a certain perspective. This film is based on a real news story from over a decade ago in Japan where a mother abandoned her children, and the entire movie was shot during school vacations for the children playing the siblings, with the oldest son's actor, Yuya Yagira, winning the best actor prize at Cannes for his portrayal. The youngest children in the family have been kept hidden by the mother for their entire lives, as she does not want to be seen as a single mom who cannot find a relationship due to having too many kids, and the oldest son must protect his siblings and find food and shelter for them after the money runs out. Absolutely can be watched in companion with "Grave of the Fireflies" to see similar stories of children struggling to live on their own, and without spoiling things, the ending of both is absolutely heartbreaking.