I’ll apologize beforehand in regards to what one will find themselves reading if it drives away from the film itself, but the moment a thought comes by when I want to talk about the impact of Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Nobody Knows upon myself, I cannot help but tear up, and within a word I write about what has been captured here, and it affects me in a manner that almost felt so personal to myself. But before I start rambling, it is already hard enough trying to find where I should begin when I want to talk about Nobody Knows, one that I find so difficult to revisit because these feelings pain me so much. Whenever I come back towards my favourites of Kore-eda’s pieces, I always find something to them that provokes such a response and it is never easy for myself to recap what the experience does for me. Nobody Knows is yet another film reminding me of these pains.
Nobody Knows, while fictionalized, tells of a true story that shook Japan in 1988 – a time in which five underaged children were abandoned by their mother. Hirokazu Kore-eda’s retelling of the events are much less grim than what actually had taken place, for instead we see a story about four siblings who move together with their mother into a new apartment in Tokyo. However, only the eldest child is known to the landlord whereas the other three are living inside of the home illegally as each of them have a different father, and thus they cannot attend school or be seen anywhere within the area. The mother disappears, and after weeks of no return, she ultimately never comes back – thus leaving the eldest child, Akira, responsible for taking care of the others and they are forced to survive on their own. Although Kore-eda aims for a less grim approach in comparison to the actual events that have taken place there is still that tone felt all throughout the handling of the story which ultimately gives Nobody Knows the power it contains.
I’ve come to accept that maybe it must be me being soft over Japanese family dramas – for every time I watch the films of Yasujiro Ozu I feel as if something more arises with how a certain simplicity ends up becoming something truly profound on many levels. Hirokazu Kore-eda is not a filmmaker that is much like Yasujiro Ozu, but his handling of family drama is still something so impactful. Nobody Knows was my introduction to Hirokazu Kore-eda, and within no time and eventual (challenging) revisits, it might not have ended up my favourite of his body of work but it certainly finds a spot amongst my favourite films of the century, for much like the films of Yasujiro Ozu, there is a lesson to be learned by the end of Nobody Knows, one which only haunts a mind right after a viewing has went through.
Yet where is Nobody Knows hitting me much more than I would ever have thought on the spot? I knew for a fact that there was something more especially within the way he establishes the family, always there for one another especially at a time that has come so unexpected for them, one which they have been unprepared for. Akira Fukushima, as played by the Cannes Best Actor Award-winning Yuya Yagira, is a responsible child who overcomes the most difficult results of such an event by transforming himself into an adult, a father figure for the children who are illegally living inside of the home. I look at myself in the mirror, and I can never find myself prepared to take on such duties, for the many times in which my parents have told me that it is best to prepare for the unexpected. It breaks my heart all the more when I look at how much is Akira doing for his siblings because I can never put myself in this position on the spot, for I know I would have failed so easily – and at this point of my life I’m merely caught within a realm that is so full of uncertainty just everywhere I go.
Maybe there might have been something even more at hand that Kore-eda was tackling in Nobody Knows that ultimately left it to carry such a devastating impact upon myself. It became clear from Akira’s uttering towards the selfishness of his mother, especially after the dire situation in which she has left her children living within, for they are not occupying the area inside of legal circumstances. Nobody Knows assures one of hope, even at a time that could endanger the lives of human beings who are clearly unready for the bigger world outside of them. For Nobody Knows is a film about sticking together, something that every last one of his child actors have captured so splendidly, giving the film such a great emotional resonance. When I look upon these children, I feel there is something about myself to which I want to improve, for the fact that they still remain intact only moves me all the more especially with how Kore-eda handles their stories and mistakes with such honesty. Suddenly, during the film’s final moments, a song plays, sung by the actress who plays a mini-market teller whom Akira has met – hinting towards a greater thematic significance. I tear up.
As everything becomes clearer to myself, maybe there was a power that Hirokazu Kore-eda had left behind which was channeling what Yasujiro Ozu had always created inside of his most powerful works. Without a doubt, this film goes down as one of the most depressing cinematic experiences that one can encounter within this century, one that got to me much more than I would have ever expected – one that just startled me, because the title already hints at how the power had come in. Nobody Knows is a film about trying to find hope at a time where nobody knows how it can ever be found, or where it can be sought. A distressing experience that I only urge people to seek out at least once in their lifetime – truly something that would make the term “heartbreaking” sound like a mere understatement. But maybe I don’t even know myself, I’m just in too much of a wreck after this. So I leave behind another wreck of all the praises I can give to Kore-eda for Nobody Knows, because deep down, I just don’t know myself.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via IFC Films.
Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda
Screenplay by Hirokazu Kore-eda
Produced by Hirokazu Kore-eda
Starring Yuya Yagira, Ayu Kitaura, Hiei Kimura, Momoko Shimizu, Hanae Kan, You
Release Year: 2004
Running Time: 130 minutes