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Nobody Knows

Genre: Drama
Rated: PG-13
Written and Directed by: HIROKAZU KORE-EDA
Released by: IFC Films

In Short: Based on a true story, this tale of four children living on their own in Tokyo is no “Party of Five,” but it’s well crafted, subtle and moving.

Nobody Knows:
But You Should
By Andrew Bender

The first surprise of “Nobody Knows” shows up in suitcases. Keiko (played by You) and her 12-year-old son Akira (Yuuya Yagira) move into a Tokyo apartment and unpack Akira’s youngest brother and sister. The middle sister shows up, the family has a nice dinner, and before we know it Keiko departs “for a little while” (by which she means something close to “forever”).


This leaves the four kids in an apartment they can’t afford, with no income and no caregiver. The flat is too small for a large family, so the kids must stay unseen and unheard lest they be evicted---even the balcony is off limits. School is out of the question, and they won’t go to child services for fear of being split up. As bills pile up and money runs out, uncooked instant noodles qualify as a feast, and a flower as an object of enchantment. “Party of Five” this isn’t.

Writer and director Hirokazu Kore-eda (“After Life”) shot the film using documentary techniques, where little, intimate observations like the squeak of sandals are richly observed and unflinching. The performances are uniformly strong as well. Yagira, as Akira, won the Best Actor award at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. He makes a remarkable transformation during the course of the film, which was filmed over one year, only partly because he grew taller and his voice changed.

We don’t know words harsh enough to describe the mother in this story, but by contrast we were completely compelled by the spirit of the kids looking after each other, solving problems and even having some fun. “Nobody Knows” may have elements of tragedy, but it’s somehow also life-affirming.

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