Nobody Knows (2004)
If The Florida Project didn’t bum you out quite enough, Hirokazu Koreeda’s Nobody Knows might do the trick. After Akira (Yûya Yagira) and his mother Keiko (an actress named You) greet the landlord’s at their new complex. As movers bring in the suitcases and other meager possessions for this family, it doesn’t seem incredibly promising for the family, and that’s even before they open the suitcases to show three additional siblings have been smuggled into the small apartment. Surly faced, begrudging what is clearly another move and landlord deception in a long series of instability, the family attempts to find their home.
In this house, there are two rules: No loud voices and no going outside, not even on the veranda. Their mother, fond of referring to herself in the third person, promises unsettling corporal punishment if these rules are broken; green peppers are mentioned as a clue. Strapped for cash or viable adult supervision, the kids are brough to play games as to who will go without dinner that night. Will they be able to stay in this place for good? “I really think this time probably,” their mother promises with every qualifier available, but as she shirks every responsibility, their mother creeps toward her disappearance before disappearing for a month and then seemingly for good. Young Akira, twelve-years-old, is left to fend for their family, seeking for ways to obtain food and cash without resorting to crime. The police or government are not an option as the family will be separated; they’ve been down that road before.
The early portions lack the emotional heft and cohesion he developed his later films, but when things in this family get rough, Koreeda develops a tight bond of family commitment admirable in their quiet commitment to keep the family together. The older siblings Akira and the next oldest sister ignore their youth, and the younger two siblings retract into apartment dwelling. It doesn’t seem they’ve ever known much else. Focusing on Akira, we watch a formidable boy having to grow up too quickly and too blind to the repercussions of his choices. Falling for a self-destructive older girl, choosing to have friends, Akira is a preteen about to stumble into the pubescent parenthood your parents did not warn you against. Yakira grows on the screen. Reserved when his mother is swallowing the scene, Akira becomes a lively character, though less childlike. His math lessons budgeting came into practice. A head of his household with no clue how to support it, each scene is strenuous as the kids try to raise the kids. There really is no blaming Akira for the ending, because the entire course of Nobody Knows comes out in the title. Nobody knows where there mother is; nobody knows what the fuck they’re doing. Nobody Knows is an impressive movie.