Survival: Abandoned Children Bonding in the Streets of Tokyo
'Dare mo shiranai' (NOBODY KNOWS) is a gleaming little film bywriter/director Hirokazu Koreeda that offers a version of a true storyso simply and eloquently that by the end of the film the audience ispowerfully moved - without gimmicks, without imitation emotionaldevices, without major stars. It just simply works. Though the film islong at 2 1/2 hours the journey is well worth it and indeed theprolonged length seems necessary to convey the plight of these touchingchildren's plight.
The film opens (during the titles) on public transportation where ayouthful mother Keiko (the pop star You) and her young son Akira (YûyaYagira) sit guarding an ugly pink suitcase and other bags. Keira andKeiko have rented a poor little apartment promising the landlord thatKeiko will make no noise. Once inside their new home the ugly bags areopen and two additional children emerge and a trip to the bus stationadds yet a third child! Thus, 'unknown' to the landlord, the apartmentcontains a family of five! Soon Keiko leaves on a trip to 'make money',leaving some cash with Akira who is placed in charge of his brother andsisters. Of course, Keiko doesn't return except for one brief visitmonths later, and leaving the children to fend for themselves.
Akira manages to make friends outside, gaining food and money for gooddeeds and good will, keeping his little 'family' afloat. GraduallyAkira realizes that Keiko will never return and through his friendshipwith a young girl still manages to eek out an existence: the manner inwhich he keeps his family happy is food for the soul! But despite hisconstant good intentions to maintain a life for his family, one of hissisters dies and he and his girl friend bury her where she can 'watchthe airplanes'. And life goes on. There is no ending depicted, justcontinuum.
With the subtlest technique Koreeda creates a story so real that itpulsates. The child actors (especially Yûya Yagira) are so natural andfine that they grab our hearts tenaciously. The only music in this filmis a few notes form a toy piano and quiet harp music that enhances thefeeling of isolation of the children. This is a film of rare beauty,one that could have been edited a bit, but even that criticism isovershadowed by the impact of Hirokazu Koreeda's overall achievement.Very Highly Recommended. Grady Harp