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Nobody Knows

85 customer reviews

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(Sep 13, 2005)
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Editorial Reviews

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.

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

Special Features

  • In Japanese with English subtitles

Product Details

  • Actors: Yûya Yagira, Ayu Kitaura, Hiei Kimura, Momoko Shimizu, Hanae Kan
  • Directors: Hirokazu Koreeda
  • Writers: Hirokazu Koreeda
  • Producers: Hirokazu Koreeda, Hijiri Taguchi, Satoshi Kôno, 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.)
  • 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 (85 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000A5044C
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #90,782 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Nobody Knows" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

71 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Yotam on February 25, 2005
"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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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Naia Zifu on December 23, 2005
Format: DVD
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 By W. tao-tan on July 19, 2005
Format: DVD
Four stepsiblings (two boys and two girls) living in present day Tokyo, Japan are suddenly abandoned by their charismatic, yet irresponsibly idealistic mother. Left with only a little money and a vague hope that their mother may return from her romantic escapades (hoping to find a father for her kids), the children struggle to survive on their own.

As unbelievable as the plot sounds, this film succeeds because it is surprisingly believable. The simple piano score, the raw, "documentary-style" of the film, and the slow, but precise pacing all compliment the memorable, realistic acting, especially from Yagira, playing the oldest boy.

Yagira's performance is touching and heartfelt without being "cute" (steven speilberg would be apalled). When the food and water run out, he does not waste time crying or throwing a tantrum. Instead, he tediously pumps water from the local playground pump and shamelessly bums leftover sushi from a restaurant for him and the others, all the while smiling from time to time, dreaming of baseball and school (which he has never attended).

Though they live day to day, looking more grungy and detatched from society,ironically, out of their harsh living, they acquire a compassion and vitality for life much stronger than that of most of their peers in the civilized world. Their newfound strength ultimately helps them to cope with an almost unthinkable tragedy that evokes scenes so powerfully simple that they are likely to remain in the viewer's mind long after the movie is over.
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