Nobody Knows (Kore-eda, 2004)

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Nobody Knows begins within a seemingly tight safety net; Keiko and her son Akira formally greeting their new landlords with a gift. The interaction is formal, polite, and altogether pleasing for all involved. Later, as the two begin to unpack their belongings, Keiko opens up one of her suitcases and out pops Shigeru, another young son, and then young daughter Yuki from another similar piece of luggage. Later, older sister Kyoko joins them from the train station. This whole process is like a practiced ballet, and we later learn this tight knit group of siblings has experienced such movement many times.  In the early moments of Nobody Knows Kore-eda makes sure to emphasize two elements that will haunt the rest of the film; Keiko’s recklessness as a mother and each child’s role in making the family unit work while she is absent. When Keiko leaves for work one last time, promising to be back for Christmas, even Akira gets the sense she might not come back. The rest of the film is a painful look at the four children attempting to survive on their own, abandoned by their mother and ignored by the adult world coexisting beside them. The inherent tragedy of the situation is never treated with sentimentality or brutality, but the right amount of balance between the two. Kore-eda uses a typical hand held camera style to parallel the fluidity of the kids’ situation, but injects a number of telephoto lens to constrict the image, forcing the characters together within the frame. The result is a sort of neo-realism (non-professional actors, on location shooting) concerning the arrogance, impotence, and ignorance of the adult world and it’s affects on children. Akira, the leader of this troupe, goes through his own bouts of selfishness while dealing with his mother’s departure, only to realize too late the ramifications his greed has had on the familial whole. Kore-eda does a brilliant job juxtaposing the depressing and lyrical final sequence alongside a tune of hope, concluding with a shot of the children walking down the street, out in the open, more experienced, and fully aware of each other’s importance to the group.

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