Times Reviews Nobody Knows

Mark Nornes amnornes at umich.edu
Thu Feb 3 19:01:41 EST 2005

Scott gives strong review to Kore-eda's Nobody Knows. As Dennis and 
others have pointed out on the list, how a foreign film does in New 
York is increasingly sealing its fate. This is good news for Kore-eda.

There was a nice article about the director a few days ago as well. 
Nice, except that he comes up with a new metaphor for the old saw about 
Japanese cinema being in decline: "it's freeze-framed."


And some of the spirit of fairy-tale adventure remains even after the 
mother has vanished, the money she left behind has dwindled and Akira's 
steadfastness has begun to fray into desperation. In reality, the idea 
of children fending for themselves is terrifying, but that terror is 
also what gives so many bedtime stories and young-adult novels their 
thrill. Children's literature, from the Brothers Grimm to "The Secret 
Garden" to Lemony Snicket, is heavily populated by foundlings, orphans 
and cast-off children whose pluck and resourcefulness feed fantasies of 
heroic self-sufficiency.


Mr. Yagira was 12 when he began work on the film and 14 when he won the 
top acting prize in Cannes last year, beating out Tom Hanks, Geoffrey 
Rush and Gael García Bernal, among others. His performance is the key 
to the film's uncanny ability to capture the world of childhood from 
both inside and out; Akira is, of necessity, mature beyond his years, 
but also frighteningly unworldly, and Mr. Yagira, without the 
self-consciousness that young actors so often lean on, allows glimpses 
of the boy's complicated inner life to come through in small gestures 
and fleeting expressions.

"Nobody Knows" is not for the faint of heart, though it has no scenes 
of overt violence, and barely a tear is shed. It is also strangely 
thrilling, not only because of the quiet assurance of Mr. Kore-eda's 
direction, but also because of his alert, humane sense of sympathy. He 
is neither an optimist nor a sentimentalist - like his previous films, 
"Maborosi," "After Life" and "Distance," this one presents a fairly 
bleak view of the modern world - but he does keep an eye out for 
manifestations of decency, bravery and solidarity. These tend to be 
small and fleeting, and therefore all the more valuable and worth 
clinging to when his patient, meticulous eye uncovers them.
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