Picks and Pans Review: Nobody Knows

updated 02/14/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/14/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

Yûya Yagira, Ayu Kitaura

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Four children spending a day exploring their urban neighborhood are thrilled to discover flowers stubbornly poking through the metal and concrete of a sidewalk grate. Like the posies, the kids manage to survive despite the worst of circumstances in this small, beautifully wrought Japanese film. The four siblings, aged 5 to 12 and each by a different absent father, have been abandoned in a cramped Tokyo apartment by their flighty, self-indulgent mother. We see the world through their eyes as the months pass and seasons change, with money and food growing scarce. The few adults the kids encounter are clueless as to the gravity of their situation.

Director-writer Hirokazu Kore-eda (After Life), who was inspired by a true story, gets wonderfully naturalistic performances from his young actors. Of particular note is Yagira, who, as the oldest, has a solemnity that's heartbreaking. (PG-13)


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