Discover: Nobody Knows


Japanese Cinema

Dare mo Shiranai

Genre: Drama

Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda

Released 7th August 2004

Yūya Yagira as Akira Fukushima, Keiko’s eldest son, he is 12 years old and is often forced to take on the adult responsibilities at home.
Ayu Kitaura as Kyōko Fukushima, the oldest daughter, she is 11 years old and is given the responsibilites of the household chores
Hiei Kimura as Shigeru Fukushima, the youngest son, he is loud and playful, and the reason the family had to move last time.
Momoko Shimizu as Yuki Fukushima, the youngest at 5 years old. Nobody is sure who her father is.
You as Keiko Fukushima, the flippant and neglectful mother who abandons her children.

nobody knows

After reviewing ‘Like Father, Like Son’ (which can be read here) I decided I had to go on to review ‘Nobody Knows’ , another great and earlier film by Koreeda. it’s strange watching this after ‘Like Father, Like Son’ because even though 9 years had passed between each film, you can still see Koreeda’s unique tranquil touch upon them both. Nobody Knows in my opinion is the better film. I enjoyed (if depressing oneself is enjoyment) this film a lot more because, whilst Like Father, Like Son touched upon a tough subject, the subject was something we can all have an opinion on. the story is adult related and as an adult I can criticise the character’s decisions. But with nobody knows, the films is focused on the children. there isn’t anything to truly criticise about kids trying to make the best for themselves out of a shitty situation (except for the obvious decision made in the film that we will all be disgusted at)

Instead we are not left with needing to question ourselves or society, but instead left watching a gentle and moving story about these 4 siblings. Keiko Fukushima is a woman with 4 kids all from different fathers.  She stays out late with her friends and leaves the running of the house to her eldest son Akira. The film begins with them moving into a new apartment, smuggling 3 children into it as only herself and Akira are allowed to be there. The children don’t go to school as it is unlikely they are registered, and only Akira can leave the house to go shopping whilst the other 3 must stay inside all day at all times.

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One day Keiko tells Akira that she has fallen in love with someone, to which Akira replies wearily “again?”. We can tell Akira is already tired of this woman baggage, from numerous boyfriends and irresponsible actions. But Keiko assures him this is the one and soon they can all live like one big happy family once they are married. Though first she must tell the man about her children. So she goes to live for him, entering the first month which they are alone before coming back for one night. Until she leaves again with no knowledge of when she will be back.  Though before this Akira and Keiko talk in a café before he sees her off on the train. Where she asks Akira if she is allowed to be happy. Cue all the audience simultaneously thinking “no”.

Watching the eventual passage of time flow in a touching and moving story as these kids, instead of turning feral, attempt to retain a semblance of family. The film is long, running at 2 hours 20 with the story moving at a steady pace. Though it uses all its time efficiently. It gives us enough exposition to understand the struggles and follow along with the children’s journey. From the beginning of keeping a calm house to the deterioration of their house and clothes showing the passage of time.

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Koreeda’s directing is superb with the documentary-esque style of filming which brings us in close with the issues portrayed.  The shots which are filmed around the same level as the children as to make sure we are not looking down upon them and are brought closer to their world. With a mix of long shots focusing on the worn out children as they struggle creates a melancholy tone that drives us through the film.

The performances by the children are something to truly shout home about. Koreeda seems to have a knack for directing children. With kid actors often being pretty bad. But the performances brought to the screen by these children never once relieve us of the illusion of the event happening in front of us. Yūya Yagira even went on to win the best actor award at the 2004 Cannes film festival and it is easy to see why.

All together ‘Nobody Knows’ is a magical film that portrays children being thrust into the adult world all too young. This is a must watch Japanese film that I would even urge you to watch before ‘Like Father, Like Son’ or any other of Koreeda’s films. If you’re looking for a film that will stay in your mind for a week after watching then this is a film for you.

Read more: Train to Busan, Memories of Murder, The Man from Nowhere


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