Four siblings--each sired by a different man--live with their restless mother in a modest Tokyo apartment. They’ve never been inside a schoolroom, but they manage to have a good time despite their unconventional domestic situation. Then their mom suddenly splits, leaving behind a little money and a note instructing Akira, who is all of 12, to play daddy to the other kids.

CAST: Yuya Yagira, Kitaura Ayu, Kimura Hiei, Shimizu Momoko, Kan Hanae, You

WRITER/DIRECTOR: Hirokazu Kore-eda

“‘Nobody Knows,” a harrowing, tender film, was inspired by a real event... Mr. Kore-eda explores nearly every emotional nuance and implication of the story, without for an instant succumbing to sensationalism or melodrama. The content is, to some extent, a punishing immersion in impotent dread...Mr. Yagira (at left) was 12 when he began work on the film and 14 when he won the top acting prize in Cannes last year...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.” --A. O. Scott, The New York Times

“Two hours and twenty-one minutes is a long haul for a tale of plotless decline, and when Kore-eda does spring a coincidence on us—Akira, a baseball nut, is called upon to join a local team while lounging against a fence—the contrivance juts out and jars. The climax has a quiet ghoulishness, and we are encouraged to believe that the children are now so enfeebled and drained that horror will pass them by, but once again you feel a director overplaying his hand. Nobody can mistake the tranquil beauty of Kore-eda’s scenes, but the trouble with tranquil beauty is that if the dose is too high it leaves you tranquillized... I certainly came out of “Nobody Knows” feeling numb; only later, reflecting on the fact that the movie was inspired by a true story, did it occur to me that the numbness could have been deliberate, and that what suffused this picture was a mist of anger.” --Anthony Lane, The New Yorker

“Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda's most accessible film to date is also his most wrenching, a beautiful but ultimately tragic drama...Sadly, as the brief prologue indicates, this fictionalized story is based on a real-life incident.” --Ken Fox, TV Guide

“Kore-eda patiently tracks the children's secret existence as un-adult adults, minute by minute, with gentleness and acute observation...They are four souls alone in their own universe, abandoned and unloved like believers whose Creator has turned his back on them. Kore-eda gets miraculously fresh performances from the children and the film is absorbing, humane and deeply moving.” --Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

“A delicate, lyrical testament to youthful resilience...Loosely structured around four seasons, ‘Nobody Knows’ unfolds in a long series of episodes that slowly progress from lightly comic to bracingly sad as the situation deteriorates...The standard complaint is that the film is too long at 141 minutes, but Kore-eda wants the audience to feel the passing of time, down to watching the threads fray on the children's garments. These kids may be resilient, but facing profound neglect from their mother, their neighbors, and the community around them, they can only hold out for so long.” --Scott Tobias, The Onion

“The characters in Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda's beautifully unnerving films often exist somewhere between reality and memory. The four abandoned siblings in his piercing drama ‘Nobody Knows’ are very much flesh and blood, but because they keep to themselves, fashioning a parentless routine while hiding in their increasingly dire Tokyo apartment from other adults who might break up the family, the children become rather ghostlike themselves...Yagira's performance is so extraordinary, it won him the best actor prize at the 2004 Cannes film festival.” --Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

“Kore-eda's patient, attentive eye is kept on the particulars of these children's lives, whether it's on Yuki's crayons making errant lines into something pretty or on Kyoko idly scratching the patch of nail polish her mother had spilled on the floor as if it were a ghost...Yagira is compelled to carry the movie the way his character must carry his family, and he sustains Akira's iron resolve and his poignant wish to have a real childhood...‘Nobody Knows’ risks stretching the detail and the foreboding to the point where you're almost eager for any grand resolution...But the movie's accumulation of little traumas and tiny victories sneaks to a climax that, however unsettling, doesn't upend the movie's alert, steadfast graces.” --Gene Seymour, Newsday

“The movie's repetition and stasis are integral to its thrust; Kore-eda never provides relief from the children's ingrown perspective. Only Akira can visit the streets and shop, and his trips into Tokyo are framed for maximum contrast, powerful images of a diminutive stranger in a strange land of tumultuous opportunity and harrowing self-exposure...Calling it an ‘issue’ film ignores that fact that movies concerned with the fragile reality of childhood are as precious as one-pound pearls.” --Michael Atkinson, The Village Voice

"Excellent, troubling social commentary based on a true story...A stately pace and gradual intro suck you into the rhythms of this parallel universe, one in which desperate children live alongside grownups and yet remain invisible.” --Jami Bernard, The New York Daily News

“Using mostly non-professional actors, Kore-eda follows the children through a year of troubled existence. Amazingly, he provided the kids with no script, letting them improvise as he filmed the story in chronological order. Their performances are a revelation — you would never know that they had never before acted...With ‘Nobody Knows,’ the 42-year-old Kore-eda confirms his status as a world-class filmmaker.” --V. A. Musetto, The New York Post

“This near masterpiece from writer-director Hirokazu Kore-eda
doesn't depict the kids' plight strictly as a living hell: we see the trash piling up and faces getting dirtier, but the film also shows the joyful potential of a world without parents or teachers. Yuya Yagira, winner of the best actor award at Cannes this year, is superb as the protective eldest child; he and his other nonprofessional costars are quietly heartbreaking.” --Jim Healy, Chicago Reader