Title: ConfessionsDirector: Tetsuya Nakashima
Starring: Takako Matsu, Mana Ashida, Kaoru Fujiwara, Yoshino Kimura, Yukito Nishii, Ai Hashimoto
Plot: Junior high school teacher Yuko Moriguchi (Matsu) while announcing her resignation to her class also reveals that she also knows the two members of her class responsible for the death of her daughter Manami (Ashida) setting in motion her own plot for revenge against those responsible.
Review: Adapted from the novel of the same name by Kanae Minato, while directed by Nakashima who is probably best known for “Kamikaze Girls” and thanks to “Third Window Films “Memories of Matsuko” which as of the time of writing has yet to get a US release while such limited distribution has hardly helped him to establish himself with Western audiences. However with this film he provides a fitting reminder to never assume anything when it comes to Asian cinema, as despite having convinced myself that I knew how the film would play out, I would soon be proven to be way wrong especially as this film is nothing short of surprises to say the least, while also seemingly a statement of the failing of the Japanese judicial system as frequent stabs at the short comings of Juvenile law are made over the course of the film, as it gives numerous fictional examples of crimes were the juvenile offenders are able to get away with often the most hideous of crimes it would seem.
Comprised of a series of confessions the film constantly switches focus between characters, as the effects of Yuko’s revenge ripple out from her initial confession to her class in ever more surprising ways. It’s an interesting narrative to say the least and having not read the source novel it’s hard to say if it works better as a book especially awith the film constantly switching between characters as each confession finishes, before bringing it all together for the finale, which honestly requires something of a leap of faith from the viewer especially when at times it doesn’t seem to know what direction it’s going to take.
Opening with Yuko’s confession which is at the same time eerily haunting for how calm she remains throughout, even with the dealing with the details of how her daughter died and finishing with the nasty sting of her confessing that she spiked the killers milk with HIV infected blood. From here we get to see how each of the killers deal with the aftermath of her confession which is strange seeing how we know who they are so early on rather than their identity being teased out like a more traditional thriller which this film is anything but.
It is of course these multiple narratives which makes the film so interesting than your run of the mill thriller, especially when it comes to the fall out of the killers actions and Yuko’s revenge which sees one of the killers Naoki (Fujiwara) becoming a hygiene obsessed shut in which bizarrely doesn’t extend to his own personal hygiene as he become increasingly more filthy and unkempt. On the flipside the other killer Shuya (Niishi) returns to school for the new term were he soon finds himself being targeted by his fellow classmates who even setup a points system to judge who can pull off the best bullying tactic as they carry out their own style of vigilante justice to punish him. Shuya though as we soon finds out carry’s his own set of issues outside of the school as he finds himself constantly frustrated for his genius being overshadowed. A gift he equally views as being a curse having inherited his intelligence from his scientist mother who abandoned him in favour of pursing her own scientific ambitions and which now leads him to inventing ever more impressive inventions in the hope of her noticing him again. Strangely like Naoki the background of the killers and how they deal with the fallout their actions proves to be a lot more interesting than the reason they murdered Yuko’s daughter in the first place which only becomes more inane the further the events of that day are explained.
As well as the three main confessions of those involved, director Nakashima attempts to fill things out further by adding the additional confessions of Naoki’s mother (Kimura) who starts off siding with her son and soon finds herself being driven closer and closer to the end of her wits by her son’s sudden erratic behaviour. The bizarre choice is the classmate Mizuki who soon forms an unlikely relationship with Shuya which while it comes with some interesting moments such as the idea of serial killers taking on celebrity status with Mizuki having a tattoo of an “L” on her wrist in tribute to the “Luncacy Murder” girl who poisoned her family. Sadly with the film feeling slightly bloated with so many different angles at play these segments only really serve to drag the film out longer.
Unquestionably the film is very pretty to look at and makes it easy to understand why comparisons have been made to Park Chan Wook’s “Vengeance Trilogy”. However unlike that trilogy this film is sadly lacking in any real emotional punch to add any weight to the film and while it might certainly not be filled with the same shocking moments of violence it does however manage to make the scenes showing the murder especially harrowing to watch. Alas while the characters might vary in the levels of interest that their confessions bring, you rarely feel anything for their plight which is certainly one of the things which stopped me from liking this film more. Thankfully the Nakashima manages to pull it all together for the finale, which she's Yuko revel the full extent of her plans with a great twist which goes some way to making up for the earlier flaws.