• James Rutherford

'Nobody Knows': A Heartrending Portraiture of Four Abandoned Children Forced to Care for One Another


Movie poster for the Japanese film Nobody Knows starring Yûya Yagira

"Nobody Knows" ("Dare Mo Shiranai") is a heartrending Japanese drama from 2004 starring Yûya Yagira as Akira, a 12-year-old boy left to care for his three young siblings after his mother (Yukiko Ehara) abandons them. Each the product of a separate father, all of whom have long since departed, the four youths are forced to scrape and claw for meager subsistence—entirely unaware of their mother's whereabouts or her likelihood of returning.

Set primarily within a small Tokyo apartment and told over the course of the four seasons of the year, the storyline follows Akira as he struggles to provide surrogacy for young Shigeru (Hiei Kimura) and Yuki (Momoko Shimizu) as well their older sister Kyōko (Ayu Kitaura)—particularly after their meager allotment of funds is depleted. Despite their mother's promise to return in due time, they ultimately learn that she has run off with a new husband and discarded them entirely, leaving Akira in the daunting role of caregiver despite his own immaturity.

Written and directed by Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda ("Like Father, Like Son", "Shoplifters"), "Nobody Knows" is a straight-forward and achingly realistic depiction of adversity and endurance, made all the more affecting by the shear youthfulness of its four central characters. Inspired by the infamous 1988 "Sugamo Child-Abandonment Incident", the film delivers a profound and emotionally galvanizing depiction of fortitude and perseverance, steeped in fleeting glimpses of optimism and heartfelt exhilaration.

 

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