Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Year Released: 2004
The first two thirds of this typically pensive Kore-eda film are absolutely masterful, as it shows four children (led by their 12-year-old brother) struggling to learn about the cost of living and taking care of themselves when their mother abandons them for good to pursue her own 'happiness' with another family (the mother, played by an actress named You, is such a horrible, self-centered monster she could easily pass as an American parent). The problem is the film's third act, which has the same pace and poetic touch as the first two acts, but Kore-eda is so resolute not to have an ending in which welfare services (or any intelligent soul, like the landlord) steps in and deals with the children that the film borders on being nihilistic, 'trapping' the children in their own abandoned world and leaving them to die (the final frames have them still begging for food and water, their utilities long since shut off due to non-payment). If the kids this was based on - or even those mentioned in the press not long ago who were locked in cages by their parents - can be saved in real life, why not on film? It's brilliantly observed and performed, but the script gives out.