Extraordinary movie, but don't expect Walt Disney
Dare mo shiranai (2004) (Nobody Knows) is an extraordinary film,written, produced, and directed by Hirokazu Koreeda.
The basic plot outline is relatively straightforward--four children areleft alone for months in an apartment by their mother.
However, the actual film is far more complex. The three youngerchildren aren't allowed out of the apartment. (The landlord will rentonly to the mother and her older son, who is twelve. The other childrenhave to be smuggled into the apartment, and are forced to remain insideso no one will know they're there.) To add to their problems, thechildren are also chronically short of money.
The burden of survival is placed on the shoulders of Akira, apre-adolescent young man of extraordinary good will and intelligence.He has to do all the things a parent would do-- maintain the apartment,purchase and prepare food, pay the bills, etc. Naturally, a normal lifeis impossible for any of the children, but by sheer determination theymuddle through somehow as the months pass and their mother doesn'treturn.
No one is overtly cruel to the children, and some people actively helpthem. However, as the title implies, nobody knows the true situationthe children face, and, in fact, nobody tries very hard to find out.
Yûya Yagira as the older brother Akira is exceptional. All the childrenare superb actors. The mother, played by an actor named You, isoutstanding as a woman who is still young and attractive, and in manyways is less mature than her son. She wishes the children no harm--shejust doesn't understand why she can't live as a free and happy singlewoman. Caring for four young children just doesn't fit her life style.
There's an interesting contrast between the mother in this film and themother in a French film (Viper in the Fist) I recently reviewed. Themother in Viper in the Fist is a horrible parent because she tries tocontrol and mold every aspect of her children's lives. In Nobody Knows,the mother is equally horrible, but for just the opposite reason--shecontrols and molds nothing.
In a U.S. movie, the children would meet all the challenges, and copecollectively with each new problem. In life, things don't always workout in this neat and uplifting fashion. The story is heartwarming inits way, but remember that the film wasn't made by the Disney studios.