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Nobody Knows (2004)

Yya Yagira , Ayu Kitaura , Hirokazu Koreeda  |  PG-13 |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Yya Yagira, Ayu Kitaura, Hiei Kimura, Momoko Shimizu, Hanae Kan
  • Directors: Hirokazu Koreeda
  • Writers: Hirokazu Koreeda
  • Producers: Hirokazu Koreeda, Hijiri Taguchi, Satoshi Kno, Toshiro Uratani, Yutaka Shigenobu
  • Format: Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
  • DVD Release Date: September 13, 2005
  • Run Time: 141 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000A5044C
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #124,169 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Nobody Knows" on IMDb

Special Features

  • In Japanese with English subtitles

Editorial Reviews

Nobody Knows, an extraordinary film from Japanese director Kore-Eda Hirokazu, is a heartbreaking and touching story about how selfish a single mother can be to her four children, and how resilient children can be. Kicked out of several apartments for her large brood, Keiko (Japanese pop star You) sneaks them in to a new one (two inside the suitcases) and goes over the house rules: No loud noises. They must stay hidden inside the apartment all day, every day. Only Akira, the oldest, leaves to do grocery shopping while she works. He also makes dinner while Keiko goes out on dates (implying to her children that she's looking for a rich husband so that they can all live in a big house together).

One day, Keiko (not a villain, but an unsympathetic, helium-voiced child herself) announces she's going away for a few weeks to work. She soon emerges every few months, only to drop off money before taking off again, at one point, for good. Akira forgoes any normal 12-year-old's upbringing (even school) to play mother, father, even Santa Claus to his siblings. There's a trapped feeling in Nobody Knows. For the younger kids, it's the inability to escape to the outside world. For Akira, it's seeing the outside world and knowing he has too many responsibilities to participate in it--when he tries, the results are disastrous. As the children grow up and resources become more scarce, the film's tenacity to show every painful detail of their existence slows the pace to almost a standstill. Still, it's a lovely, haunting tale beset with unforced performances from its young actors, particularly Yagira, who won the best actor prize at Cannes. -- Ellen A. Kim

Product Description

Based on true events that shocked Japan, this story of abandoned siblings is a "harrowing, tender film" (The New York Times) that "unfolds with leisurely beauty" (LA Weekly). Filmed over a year and featuring a performance by 12-year-old Yagira Yuya that won the Best Actor prize at the 2004 Cannes International Film Festival, this "haunting" (Newsday) tale is "heartbreakingly brilliant" (The Boston Globe). A childlike mother of four sneaks her children into their new apartment as if it were a game. One of the game’s rules is that only Akira, the oldest, can go outside. Their mother leaves, first for a month, then possibly forever. As the money runs out and the utilities are shut off, Akira struggles to take care of his brother and sisters, determined that they stay safe and together.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
66 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Koreeda's 'Nobody' is a somber masterpiece February 25, 2005
By Yotam
"Nobody Knows," a profoundly moving film from the acclaimed Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda, proves that the greatest movies don't need flashy action or CGI effects to achieve significant emotional impact. Despite its immediate appearance of stripped-down starkness, it is a film of technical virtuosity and carefully orchestrated sequences. But the true heart of the film -- which is loosely based on the true story of four children abandoned by their mother in Japan in 1988 and discovered six months later -- lies in its shocking realism.

"Nobody Knows" begins when Keiko (played by the Japanese pop star You) deserts her young children in a run-down apartment in a nameless Japanese city with barely enough money to pay the bills. Her oldest son Akira (Yuya Yagira) must fend for himself and protect his younger brother Shigeru (Hiei Kimura) and his sisters Kyoko (Ayu Kitaura) and Yuki (Momoko Shimizu). Akira tries his best to be a parent, borrowing money from dishonest family acquaintances, buying Christmas gifts for his siblings and relying on new friends for help, including the young Saki (Hanae Kan).

Many films have captured the gritty experience of urban survival in a busy and unfriendly city, and plenty are told from the perspective of children. But unlike movies such as the recent "In America," this story is characterized by an utter lack of sentimentality and an extraordinary subtlety. The movie merely hints at the family's past before the opening of the film -- Koreeda is wisely content to develop his characters through action without succumbing to unnecessary narration or expository dialogue.

As such, the storyline of "Nobody Knows" is a loose framework rather than an intricate plot.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Movie I Ever Rented On a Whim December 23, 2005
I hadn't heard of this movie before, and only rented it on a whim because the cover blurb interested me. I didn't expect it to be so emotionally draining-- I watched it yesterday, but I still feel like I might cry just thinking about it!-- but this is definitely one I'll watch again, and one I would like to own.

This seems at first the story of a loving, if selfish and immature mother. . . sure, she raises her family in an unconventional way, but they seem to be a close-knit, generally happy bunch. They even seem fine at first when she leaves them alone with nothing but a note and an envelope of money, but the money starts to run out, and Akira is forced to borrow from his siblings' fathers to keep afloat. When their mother does return, there seems to be a hint of resentment, especially from the older children.

Then we find out just how selfish she can be, as their mother leaves her job and children outright to be with a man. She doesn't even tell them what she's doing-- Akira finds out by calling around to check up on her. I don't think he actually tells his siblings where she's run off to, but Kyoko, at least, seems to know they've been abandoned from fairly early on. She tries to shelter the others with promises their mother will return, but even they become more doubtful as time goes by.

Akira does an admirable job of holding the household together at first, but goes through his own selfish period when he befriends some schoolboys, and spends more time playing games with them than caring for the home and his siblings. By the time he learns their true nature and returns to his home life, the place is in squallor and the utilities are all being turned off.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars bleak, affecting, beautiful January 23, 2006
Kore-eda's achievement in this film is startling. This is film art grounded in the minimalist traditions of the Ozu school of Japanese filmmaking; leisurely story development, very little camera movement, minimal dialogue, perfectly-pitched performances from the actors. It references much of the best of contemporary Japanese cinema; the abused outcast child seen in Village of Dreams, the rites-of-passage trials in Firefly Dreams, the pagan rituals exhibited in Swallowtail. And yet, added to these elements, is a devastating critique of the anomie afflicting contemporary Japanese society. In recent years we have heard stories of a child found dead in a box in a residential area, a young woman kidnapped and held in a house between the ages of nine and nineteen, children suffocating in a car while their parents play pachinko, and a mother and son who starved to death in the middle of Tokyo because they were too proud to ask for welfare. The film is based on one true story, but I was reminded of all of these stories while viewing. All of these incidents happened in heavily-populated areas, but nobody knew. It is quite a feat that the director manages to indict more than the damaged, neglectful mother; the disinterested neighbours (always shot in an alienating manner, lower-body only or head turned away), the landlord, the utility companies, the convenience store clerks who fail to act. This film fuses social criticism with a beautiful cinematic aesthetic, and it will resonate long beyond the contemporary issues it addresses.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a Feel Good Movie
I thought this movie would be a feel good movie, but it was depressing and dragged on a little too long.
Published 1 month ago by Cynthia in LA
5.0 out of 5 stars Another fine production by Hirokazu
This is one of the most profound movies I have ever seen about children in poverty. In the story, very few people helped these children and one gradually sees their spirits being... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Gloria Doan
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant movie
Amazing how good child actors can be when they aren't American. I'm a huge fan of this director - you should check out his film Like Father Like Son.
Published 5 months ago by andruinthatline
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart Breaking
This is a movie that I will never forget. Very sad! It felt like an honest portrayal of child abandonment
Published 6 months ago by Tracy Koide
5.0 out of 5 stars Nobody Knows
This Japanese movie with English subtitles is exquisite, absolutely wonderful - heartwarming, beautiful!!! Yes, I loved it. I still love it. I still watch it periodically. Read more
Published 6 months ago by rascal77
5.0 out of 5 stars AMAZING
This has been one of the greatest films i've ever seen. I won't lie. It made me cry while I was watching it.
Published 6 months ago by Maria Lanell Kato
5.0 out of 5 stars Great movie on a sad subject
Sad subject but a great movie. Makes me really appreciate the life I am living and how others can have a much harder life.
Published 7 months ago by F. Takashima
5.0 out of 5 stars Great foreign movie
The movie is slow paced but shows the day to day struggles placed on the eldest son tasked with providing for all of his younger siblings. Sad. Read more
Published 8 months ago by BooBoo
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Movie
Sad and hard to watch, but an artistically great movie.
Based on a true story.
Don't let the subtitles scare you!
Published 14 months ago by Jason
5.0 out of 5 stars Touching Film
This is not your typical Hollywood film. It is good though and very sad. I will not give away the ending, but I believe you should watch it. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Sheela
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