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Year: 2004
USA: IFC Films
UK: ICA Projects
Cast: YŻya Yagira, Ayu Kitaura, Hiei Kumura, Momoko Shimizu, Hanae Kan, You, Kazumi Kushida, Yukiko Okamoto, Sei Hiraizumi, Ryo Kase, Yuichi Kimura, Kenichi Endo, Susumu Terajima
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese (English subtitles)
UK: 141 mins
USA Rated: PG-13 for mature thematic elements and some sexual references
UK Certificate: 12A contains child abandonment theme and moderate sex references
USA Release Date: 11 February 2005 (Limited Release - Los Angeles)
USA Release Date: 4 February 2005 (Limited Release - New York)
UK Release Date: 5 November 2004 (Limited Release)
US Distributor


Inspired by an infamous true story that made headlines in Japan in 1988, this tough yet tender film from Hirokazu Kore-eda (AFTERLIFE: MABOROSI) follows the lives of four children left to fend for themselves by their wayward mother. Having smuggled her family into a new apartment under the landlord's nose, mum Keiko (played by TV star You) puts her 12 year-old son Akira (Yuya Yagira) in charge of the youngsters and - after a brief period of relative family harmony - disappears.

Akira manages 10 year-old Kyoko, 7 year-old Shigeru and 4 year-old Yuki as best he can, but limited means and the cramped confines of the apartment force this unorthodox family unit to re-shape their narrow existence to suit their physical and emotional needs.

Thanks to a cast of non-professional child actors and Kore-eda's natural style, this affecting drama couples documentary realism with a lightly poetic, child's-eye view of the world. The director's sure-footed ability to steer clear of both sentimentality and ingratiation means that the film's slow-to-gather emotional force feels deep and true.

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