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4.5 out of 5 stars24
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49 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on 30 October 2005
I have just watched this remarkably simple and sad yet heartwarming Japanese film, and felt obliged to write my first review on Amazon, if only to allow others to share the enjoyment of this little film. It all moves at a deliberately slow pace but you, the viewer, are rewarded with outstanding acting from a cast of mostly young children, and a touching and at times heart-wrenching story which patronises neither the characters or the viewer. Don't be put off by the fact that its in a foreign language - it is not an 'art' film, just a beautifully told slice of life which could happen anywhere but which is enriched by its unique depiction of ordinary Tokyo suburban life....
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 24 April 2006
An underseen, humanist classic, 'Nobody Knows' explores how 4 children cope when their mother abandons them for months on end in their Tokyo apartment. The film progresses gently, but is acutely observed, highlighting the different ways in which the children cope with their situation. The performances are devastatingly powerful. The most moving moments don't always come from high drama; few films can match the potency of the sequence where the teenage son takes his 4 year old sister out of the house - for the first time in months - for a birthday treat. As they walk hand-in-hand along down the centre of the road it's hard to hold back a tear.

Another gem from the ICA. Like the other DVDs from this label it comes with strong cover design and far more useful than usual chaptering.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The most heart wrenching Japanese movie I have seen to date is Isao Takahata's anime "Hotaru no haka" ("Grave of the Fireflies"). Once a year I steel myself to watch it again, even though doing so is as painful as the first time. "Dare mo shiranai" ("Nobody Knows") is almost as painful and the two narratives have much in common. Director Hirokazu Koreeda's film tells the story of 12-year-old Akira (Yûya Yagira) and his three younger siblings, Kyoko (Ayu Kitaura), Shigeru (Hiei Kimura), and Yuki (Momoko Shimizu) after their mother (You), abandons them in a tiny Tokyo apartment.
When we first meet this family the mother and the two oldest children are moving into the apartment, carrying heavy suitcases. Inside are the two younger children and this comic beginning to the film only sets up the tragedy to come. The mother smiles too much and we quickly pick up that she is not to be trusted. Akira has already learned this hard lesson, along with the guiding rule of their lives: do not let anybody know about the two younger children. When the mother disappears, this rule and Akira's fear that the authorities will break up their unhappy family, keeps him from seeking help when the money runs out, the power is shut off in the apartment, and the children are starting to starve. But there is always food being thrown out at a local sushi restaurant and ways of getting desperately needed medicine.
This story of "Dare mo shiranai" is based on a true story, but as far as I know that is only to the extent that there really were young kids trying to living on their own after they were abandoned by their mother. I do not think Koreeda is following the particulars of that case. But knowing that is important because we have to accept that these children have become invisible to the adult world, which is exactly what the title assures us. So nobody notice, even though we have reason to believe the rent has not been paid on the apartment and the stench must be getting noticeable to others in the building. That is why the true horror of this film is that their situation continues unabated and that beyond the pivotal tragedy in the final act the final shot of the film is really the most horrific moment of all.
This 2005 film runs 141 minutes but there is a rationale to what might be considered an excessive length because it gives a palatable weight to the long time these kids are left on their own. Yagira won the award for Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival, and his performance hinges on the look on his face and in his eyes as we fill in the silence with what we think must be going through his mind. Consequently, a lot of the credit must go to Koreeda, who constructs such meaning for us in our own minds from what we seen on the screen. There are some points in which Koreeda overplays his hand. One is the character of young Saki (Hanae Kan), who takes an interest in Akira and whose solution to the plight of the children is different (I feel that I do not know enough about what poverty is like in Tokyo today to understand the point of this plot development). The other is that when Akira finds an hour or two to live the life of a normal boy his age that fate finds a way to punish his brief moments of happiness. Koreeda's strength is in his depiction of the quiet moments of desperation for these children as he shows a world where being allowed to wear a pair of squeaky shoes is a great gift and running out of coins while being on hold is a living nightmare.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 13 January 2010
I find it hard to even say in words how this film made me feel, so forgive me if i don't do it justice.

I first saw this film on television 3 years ago...
I was flicking though channels, trying to find something to cure the boredom that insomnia so greatly causes. I'd missed the first 10 minutes or so, not that it really mattered, cause instantly I was pulled in. The film from the get-go has such an isolated and personal feel. It feels honnest and not just because its based on a true story. It's a story about life with a real lack of direction, in this case, four kids living without the guidence of parents.

It shows how through a come and go attitude to parenting, children are forced to lose there youth.

Its amazing how such a young cast, pull off the feeling of lost childhood and social isolation so well. All the performances seem natural, with no feel of pre-planning. The impulsive nature of the characters is scarely beleivable, and even the few adult cast members pull off there rolls flawlessly.

I don't want to say much about the actual story in fear of me going into spoiler country, but I love this film. It's warm, cold, loving and alone. It goes nowhere, but emotionally it goes places films very rarely do.

Go check it out for yourself, tell 'em Ant sent you.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on 26 September 2005
This is a very sad story without making you depressed. It's a story of 4 children who were abondoned by their mother and whom nobody in the society knows that they exist. 4 children expressed in the films are so lovely and special that you get frustrated with the Japanese society that appears to be very polite and caring to others on the surface but can be cold and indifferent to others in different levels, which is the reason why these children could exist without being known to neighbours, to landloard, to authorities, etc. The mother who left them was also cruel but at the same time her action reflects the cruel side of Japanese society which stigmatises unmarried mothers, children without fathers, resulting in her drastic choice she had made in order to be happy as a woman rather than as a mother. Akira, the main character in the film, is excellent in his role in raising and protecting his siblings within the world of their own. This is an excellent film to watch.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 26 December 2005
I have just watched it.Really sad...Nicely realistic,plain story.
It makes you think on people,on children,on problems.
these kind of movies,I think make us become better people.
You must watch it.A very good film.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 December 2011
After seeing this film, I felt compelled to share my thoughts about it. Having watched it the previous evening, I am still reeling from its affects. It must be one of the most subtle, powerful films I have ever seen. As a Japanophile, I am always seeking material which sheds light onto this fascinating country and found this film after viewing Afterlife. Whilst the other reviews here were all of the same opinion, that this was a sad and alternately heart-wrenching and heart-warming, I did not expected to be affected by it in the way I was.

The film is slow without being dull, sad without being depressing, and ultimately a true meditation on humanity, loss and coping with life which is hard. Never have I experienced such an intimate portrait of domestic Japan. This in itself is quite an achievement because whilst the domestic setting is small and does not offer much dramatic action, the feelings which the characters posses are incredibly potent and this is conveyed very well on the screen here. I thought the performance of the entire cast was great and all portrayed a distinct sense of individuality with the mother and the eldest child really turning in convincing parts. The film has some great symbolism and in the end I thought that the children managed to discover their humanity despite and because of their fate.

The way the film is shot is unique; it feels almost as if it is a fly on the wall documentary but the narrative manages to engross with such quiet power and poetry, that one is pulled along a gently flowing stream, to reach an ending which is both tragic and beautiful. The cumulative effect of the narrative is almost overwhelming and really generates a surge of emotions. This is a very clever film. The penultimate scene with the sun set as the children walk back from the airstrip was one of the most wonderfully poignant and affecting scenes in all of cinema! The balance which this film achieves is remarkable and it manages to convey acute pathos whilst remaining controlled and convincing. I dont think I've ever seen a film where I cared as much about the people in it than this one. A sublime achievement. Bittersweet and beautiful, Nobody Knows is a testament to serious filmmaking which comments on spectacularly important themes with real simplicity and verve. It will linger in your mind like a vision. [fortunately someone has uploaded this to youtube]
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 January 2010
Do you ever get tired of Hollywood films always trying to sell you something? When they're not trying to sell you actual goods through heavy product placement it seems like they're always trying to get you to buy into a lifestyle, into an American way of looking at the world - forcing you to be a consumer, even if it's just being a consumer of movies. Thankfully there's a lot of worthwhile cinema elsewhere in the world that has something more to say, and that's certainly the case with Kore-eda Hirokazu and his 2004 feature Nobody Knows, a film which makes a genuine and skilful attempt to make sense of the confusing world around us.

Inspired by a real-life story of a family of four children (the eldest only 14 years old) who have to cope for long periods for themselves when their mother takes off on extended trips, Kore-eda however makes the film about more than a documentary-like reconstruction of a curious case. Without unnecessary moralising or tabloid-style sensationalism, he tries to imagine how such a situation could be allowed to happen, makes it comprehensible and sympathetic. Finding neighbours intolerant of young children and landlords reluctant to rent apartments to families, the mother has been forced to pretend she doesn't have any young children, keeping them locked up and schooling them herself. The children - most of them being born out of wedlock and - as it becomes clear - to different fathers, essentially then become "invisible" as far as society is concerned.

This alone is a fascinating revelation and when combined with showing how the children cope with everyday life, it makes for an extraordinary film. But the director also does so much more than this, considering the psychological impact their confinement has on the children who have no recourse to a normal childhood through schooling and relationships with friends, getting into the minds of the four children and thereby raising interesting questions about what childhood means. The film achieves this wonderfully through some natural and engaging performances from the young leads, and the director's wonderful use of sunlight through the different seasons. A remarkable film.

The DVD from ICA Projects is basic - there's just the film and nothing else, but the image quality on the dual-layer disc is excellent, the presentation widescreen enhanced, with the original Japanese soundtrack in Dolby Digital stereo. Subtitles are large and unremovable. There are no extra features other than a booklet with a fine essay by the director on the film's origins, which is all you need really.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 July 2010
The story of 'Nobody Knows' revolves around four Tokyo siblings who are suddenly abandoned by their mother.
Left to fend for themselves with only a little money and a vague hope that their mother may return, the film follows the children's struggle to survive on their own under the leadership of their 12 year old brother Akira. When the food and water run out, Akira pumps water from the local playground and shamelessly scrounges leftover sushi from a restaurant to feed him and his siblings, all the while daydreaming of baseball and school.
As unbelievable as the plot sounds, the film succeeds because it is told in an incredibly believable way, and is shot in an almost 'fly on the wall' documentary style with a simple piano score. It also cleverly balances good and bad events which make the experience all the more real, and really highlights the children's spirit of survival.
There's no real ending to the story and although the lack of closure is mildly frustrating, the film cleverly leaves you with the impression that these four children are still out there, still doing whatever it takes to survive and stay together.
If you like foreign film and don't mind slow paced stories then 'Nobody Knows' is well worth a look.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 February 2010
This film tells the story of four children holed up secretly in a flat, running out of money for groceries while they wait with brave and fading hope for the mother who has abandoned them to come home. How they find themselves in this situation, how they cope, and how they manage to fall beneath the radar of any agency that might have helped them are explained simply and beautifully, without any excess of intrusive arty flourishes or melodramatic overstatement. The result is both heartwarming and heartwrenching.

Buy it, see it, you won't regret it.

Five stars, without a doubt.
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