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In Tokyo, the reckless single mother Keiko moves to a small apartment with her twelve years old son Akira Fukushima and hidden in the luggage, his siblings Shigeru and Yuki. Kyoko, another sibling arrives later by train. The children have different fathers and do not have schooling, but they have a happy life with their mother. When Keiko finds a new boyfriend, she leaves the children alone, giving some money to Akira and assigning him to take care of his siblings. When the money finishes, Akira manages to find means to survive with the youngsters without power supply, gas or water at home, and with the landlord asking for the rental. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil who never watched the movie based on his comments about 3 children in luggage when there were only two.
Hirokazu Koreeda wrote the first draft of the screenplay fifteen years before the film was actually made. At that point it was titled "Wonderful Sunday" and unfolded from Akira's subjective point of view, ending with a fantasy sequence in which the entire family (the children, the mother and the various fathers) are reunited for a Sunday outing. See more »
When Akira buys the stack of chocolates for Yuki near the end of the movie, he buys 19 boxes and the total comes to 1,895 yen. As there was no sales tax at the time Japan, each box would have to be priced at 99.74 yen - which is essentially impossible. See more »
No doubt there are others I haven't heard of, but for me Dare mo shiranai forms the latest entry in a trilogy of Japanese films based on true incidents involving abusive parents: Oshima's 1969 Shonen (Boy), Nomura's 1978 Kichiku (The Demon) are the others. Shonen I saw long ago and isn't available. Kichiku I watched barely two weeks ago. Nomura's camera tends to accuse, while Oshima's, if I recall, just watches, miming cinema vérité. Kore-eda, like Oshima, tends -- I mean this literally not pejoratively -- to voyeurism.
Knowing the story too well already from difficult-to-dodge early reviews and distributor publicity, I couldn't help seeing as ironic the early scenes in which the children's mother Keiko is still a factor. Her voice an almost cute nasal whisper, something like that of a child boisterously ignoring a cold (compare the whisper-singing actress in Swallowtail Butterfly and Picnic or I don't know which Karie Kahimi cut (but my favorites are all on Larmes de Crocodile)), she comes across as a really great mother. The family may be on the outs, sneaking, two or three gone fetal inside suitcases, into a one-child apartment, but it's a family of five, not four victims and a demon. The "unpacking" of the children looks clever, magical. It's fairytale stuff. So is the chatter, the family life, those first nights especially, in the new apartment. Keiko's one of them and their mother in charge of them, all at once. They may complain but they clearly admire something in her, and obey her to the letter. They've learned from her a self-reliance that so astounds throughout the film, that its slow breakdown is that much more shattering. Not just their compliance, but the skill with which they do without her during her increasingly long absences testify to what she's done for and with them. How many children you know could survive this well for this long in these circumstances?
Or is what I'm seeing just the actress You's skill with the nonprofessional child actors? I think probably it's both, You and Keiko, and that Kore-eda knew and used this.
There's going to be too much written here about this film (and on the IMDb message board look for some really knowledgeable comments by YukoK that make my top of the head rambling near worthless by comparison). I try never to repeat or preempt others' contributions, but wondered how many would register Keiko's mother-skills.
Kore-eda doesn't shy from deconstructing the closest thing he has here to a protagonist, eldest son Akira. After Keiko's whisper-voice goes slowly sinister and collapses finally into written notes, we watch his will and integrity falter even as he attracts the sympathy of the shop girl and cast-out Saki. I don't think there's a deliberately sentimental shot in the entire film. The achingly symbolic garden that mimics Akira's decline and the nighttime trek to the burial site may come closest, but both are forgivable and may have been unavoidable. If you haven't already seen Nobody Knows, prepare yourself for a fine ten-minute cry.
See my comment at Distance (2001) for a snippet of Kore-eda apologetic in person.
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