by Jaimie Grijalba
While based on an impactful true story that happened in Japan during the twilight years of the 1980’s, the film quickly comes forward and presents itself as based on those events but entirely fictionalizing what was already an unbelievable, and much more grimmer story. A family arrives to an apartment complex: a mother and his 12-year old son arrive to present themselves to the tenants, and later their luggage and furniture is put in place inside their new apartment, but along comes the surprise and trick that three other kids are hidden inside big luggage cases, the other kids of this woman who have to hide themselves from the tenants that don’t like children nor allow to that many people to live in them. The film quickly presents us with the oldest kid as the most mature person in the entire place, as he is the one that takes care of his brother and sisters, as well as the mother being introduced as entirely useless in the context of nourishment and upbringing, as well as being a complete immature by the way she laughs it up any serious situation, or anything that requires her complete attention is put aside (just like how just a little later into the film abandons her kids) so she can have fun.
The title of the film is an indictment as well as a statement of what the kids are in the reality that they have to live day to day: nobody knows about them, nobody must know if they want to survive, and here is the strangest element of the whole situation that is carefully presented by the masterful director Hirokazu Koreeda… The mother leaves them alone but still instills them with rules about their behavior if they want to stay in the apartment: they must not leave the place, not even come close to the door nor close to the veranda, and they have to stay quiet so the neighbors don’t suspect a thing… yet even after all those practical advices, she leaves them alone and the issue is how that immature and even potentially chaotic system that is left to its devices manages to survive with the same rules being applied, and with the older kid instituting his legitimate use of force and enforcing of the rules that his mother taught him. If they roamed around they’d probably be left in an orphanage and her mother would have trouble if she ever was caught… but then if she is that quick to abandon them yet still has the precaution so “nobody knows”, what is the true motivation here? Is that love? Care? Does it even count? (more…)