The film is directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, and stars Yuya Yagira, Ayu Kitaura, and Hiei Kimura.
I can't say that I am familiar with the actors or the director, but Hirokazu seems to have an impressive track-record. Not counting the tons of animated Japanese films that I have watched, I am not too seasoned when it comes to Japanese films.
Nevertheless, this film caught my attention for a number of reasons. The film received positive reviews from critics and audience-members alike, but what caught my attention was the interesting story that it seemed to tell.
Nobody Knows tells the story of four young children that are between the ages of five and twelve years old. Half-siblings, each one of them has a different father, but their bond shows that it doesn't make any difference. They move to a new house with their mother, having to be literally smuggled into the house in suitcases, and are told not to be spotted by outsiders. None of the children attend school, and the oldest son takes more care of them than the mother does.
This proves especially true when their mother leaves them to be married. The film follows their survival, and how four young siblings manage to take care of each-other.
You can tell from the beginning of the film that it isn't going to be for the faint of heart. This particularly dark subject-matter is contrasted by the characters intermingling. And it's brilliant. They don't understand what is happening, and with that, they gleefully mingle and offer child-like entertainment. They play, and happily communicate, because they have each other, but you can slowly see them begin to be picked apart.
You absolutely hate the mother and the father, and you are absolutely supposed to. However, the film lets this come across in a different way than simply being off the act alone of what they have done. The mother is manipulative, and the tragic thing is, the children are too young to realize it. They love their mother, and there are scenes when they still voice hope that she'll come back. That's when I really hated her.
As far as criticisms go, I don't really have too many. The film might have went on a little longer than it needed to. With a run-time of over two-hours and twenty minutes, but I think that would be nitpicking. No, the only problem that I actually had is the high-school girl that is in the film. I still don't understand what her relevance to it all was. She didn't really add anything, and while at first I thought, it's based on a true-story so they didn't have a choice, but I don't believe it's based close enough for that to really make it mandatory.
The film depicts things piling up in a methodical fashion. They could have easily made it immediately become a wreck at their house, but instead, they have them last a year before everything begins to crumble.
The portrayal of the characters feels so uncanny in-terms of realism, especially the oldest son. The film actually depicts his adolescent delinquency, and there are moments where he seems like he is mean-spirited, and you want to dislike the character. You don't though. Or at least, I didn't. I didn't because he was doing things that normal teenage boys do, but he had so much stress and responsibility on him.
I think they depicted that particularly well. The film actually strikes me in a similar light as the Japanese anime film, Grave of the Fireflies. Besides some of the obvious similarities, the film also deals with survivalist-behaviors and a lead character biting off far more than he could ever be expected to chew. It has some of the same harrowing realities brought into it as well.
In conclusion, the film is amazingly well-done. The story is both whimsical because of the children protagonists, and tragic ... because the children protagonists. The acting, the story, the cinematography, all of it comes together to make what I believe is a really great film. If you have the opportunity, I would highly recommend it.
Thanks for reading...