Nobody Knows delighted me, moved me, and challenged me.

Hirokazu Kore-eda, director of After Life, has accomplished something astonishing by filming a small cast of very young amateur actors over a long period of time, and drawing completely convincing performances out of each one. It’s hard to believe these four children aren’t a real family, and that they don’t really live by themselves in an increasingly filthy Tokyo apartment, waiting for their mother to return.

Yuya Yagira won the Best Actor award at Cannes for this, and I can see why. He takes us through a long journey of emotions and a whole encyclopedia of small, subtle, revealing moments. And he’s just a kid!

This is one of 2005’s must-sees (technically 2004, but it’s only reaching a wide U.S. audience now). It opens in Seattle on Friday and plays FOR ONLY ONE WEEK. So make your plans to see it now!

My only complaint … and I’m not sure yet, this may be more my fault than the movie’s … is that it runs long. I found myself glancing reluctantly at my watch near the end. Many of my favorite films are much longer than this. And some are even slower-paced. Perhaps it was because while there is a lot happening in the film, we eventually begin to realize that not much is going to change … that this is a story of a long, slow descent into desperation. The sadness, the anxiety, and eventually the anger that I felt about the conditions in which these children lived (it’s based on a true story) became wearying.

But, to be fair, I was also very tired from an emotional day, after learning about a good friend suffering a painful crisis, so that may have influenced my weariness by the end of the film.

And that is not to say that the film is a complete downer. It’s not. There are vivid moments of happiness and humor that I’ll never forget, including a shot filmed on a merry-go-round that filled me with joy.

Anyway, I strongly recommend this film to everyone.

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