Posted at 2:31 PM on November 14, 2006
by Euan Kerr
Sometimes you see a film which is just so right. It doesn't preach, it just shows, and it weighs on your shoulders for days on end.
The story of four children left to fend for themselves in the middle of a Japanese metropolis is beautifully shot, and almost restfully quiet.
The film opens with the children's mother smuggling three of the children into their tiny apartment in suitcases. She tells them to be as quiet as possible so they aren't discovered as small children aren't allowed in the building.
It's an apparently happy family, even though none of the children's fathers appear more than briefly. They are friendly, but make it clear they have no money to spare to support the children. The mother becomes less and less interested in the family and starts disappearing for days on end. One day she simply doesn't come back.
The four children are led by Akira (Yuya Yagira) a resourceful 12 year old who slides into the role as leader of the family. He's heart-rendingly serious about his role, and keeps on struggling even as their small supply of money runs out.
The power of Koreeda's film lies in his attention to the tiny details which are so important to a child. He zooms in on their feet as they play, on their fingers as they color, their faces as they read. These are ordinary children, living ordinary lives, in wretched conditions. Several adults see what is happening, but only help a little at most.
This film is set in Japan, but it addresses a global issue. It's a quiet film, but a loud indictment of society at large, and each and every one of us.