confessions | tetsuya nakashima | takako matsu | yoshino kimura | masaki okada | psychological | based on | novel | kanae minato | drama | thriller | japan | yukito nishii | kaoru fujiwara | ai hashimoto | hirofumi arai | makiya yamaguchi | ikuyo kuroda | mana ashida
Film: Confessions (Kokuhaku)
Director: Tetsuya Nakashima
Writer: Tetsuya Nakashima
Starring: Takako Matsu, Yoshino Kimura and Masaki Okada
This was a film that I never heard about, but it was selected as part of a Movie Club Challenge for a podcast I listen to. The film intrigued me in that I’m a big fan of psychological thrillers and that’s what this movie is actually toted as. It goes quite dark, so I’m fine with clumping this in with horror. The synopsis is a grieving mother turned cold-blood avenger with a twisty master plan to pay back those who were responsible for her daughter’s death.
A good portion of this film actually takes place in a classroom. We hear a song playing over a class of children as their drinking milk. We get the idea that they’re a bit unruly and this is actually the end of a section of school. Their teacher, Yuko Moriguchi (Takako Matsu), informs them this is the last day that she will be their teacher. She then goes about making a confession. She is a single mother and she can’t work anymore with something that happened. We learn who the father of her daughter is and why she never married him. Her daughter is Manami (Mana Ashida) and we learn that she died.
The police ruled it an accident, but the more that Moriguchi goes on, we actually realize that’s not the case. Her daughter was murdered. She won’t name the individuals who did it, but they’re both in the class room. She does refer to them as A and B. Moriguchi then reveals that she did something to their milk and that causes both of them to freak out.
From here we following both of these students, Naoki Shimomura (Kaoru Fujiwara) as he descends into madness for what he thinks he has now. We also see that he isn’t the nice boy that his mother thinks and actually has a dark side. Yuko Shimomura (Yoshino Kimura) blames Moriguchi for these changes as well.
Shuya Watanabe (Yukito Nishii) has a dark back-story that makes you feel sorry for him and the reason that he is acting out. The problem is that he goes way too far and when his plans don’t work like he expects, he takes them even farther.
There is also Mizuki Kitahara (Ai Hashimoto) who befriends Shuya. She also tries to help Noaki with their new teacher, Yoshiteru Terada (Masaki Okada). The film gives us even more confessions from three students and the dark secrets and desires they all harbor. The law won’t help Moriguchi, but she can definitely get her revenge.
As I’ve kind of alluded to already here, this was something I came into pretty blind and I actually really love the deeper issues this film is exploring. The first major one for me is that in Japan there’s a law that protects minors. I can see the applications of this, but with society how it is, we create monsters like we get in this film. It is wild that they could kill like they do and they really just get a slap on the wrist. It is really hard for me to blame Moriguchi for what she is doing in retaliation.
Another aspect that is really good is the idea of society in Japan. Moriguchi becomes pregnant before she is married with her daughter. The man that she is in love with turns out to have HIV, so they decide to not marry and the daughter won’t take his last name. This is in part to protect her, because children do not understand HIV/AIDS and will shun her. It turns out that Moriguchi and her daughter both do not have it. I actually like showing it this aspect that it isn’t always the easiest thing to contract like many might think. This whole concept is also explored in Moriguchi’s classroom as well. She is also looked down upon being a single mother, especially by Shimomura, who thinks that she is more worried about her own child than teaching the others.
To look at the other way, this film also does explore the idea that children in Japan have lofty expectations to live up to. Shuya’s mother gave up her dreams of being an electrical engineer to have him and when he wasn’t living up to her expectations, she left her husband and child. This really messes with his head to the point that he will do anything for her to recognize him whether it is fame or infamy.
I will admit that this film is a bit convoluted, but by the end of it, I realized that it really isn’t. The plan that Moriguchi uses for the most part just plays on the fact that children are naïve. There are the monsters that she has to deal with and wants to punish them, but she will be prosecuted if she does anything directly and they won’t be. She instead knows they can be manipulated. I actually think that the editing of the film helps this as well. We get a long sequence to start the film in the classroom with Moriguchi confessing what happened to her and what she was going to do. It then moves around between her and four other characters to fill us in. I think this keeps the film going and my interest peaked. I love the ending and what she does to finally get her revenge, even more so with her final line.
This then brings me to the acting of the film which I think is really good. I thought Matsu was absolutely great in her role. At first you feel horrible about what happened to her, but then when you realize what she is doing, it is kind of horrific. You then have to ask yourself, if the law isn’t going to give you the justice you deserve, then should you take it into your own heads. Even more than that though, she doesn’t actually do anything that would really implicate her. I thought that Nishii, Hashimoto and Fujiwara were all unique and different characters. It is interesting for how young they all are; because I think they were really solid as well. The rest of the cast rounded out the film for what was needed.
As to the effects of the film, there’s not really a lot in the film, but it didn’t require it. I like that this film does use images that flash across the screen to indicate us as viewers of something. This is a subtle way to get their point across. I think the blood we see looks good. I like the dream that Shuya has in the gym, it is pretty horrific. The film is also shot very well, so I didn’t have any issues there.
The last thing to cover would be the soundtrack. I did find it interesting that this film, with how dark and depressing it is, actually uses quite a bit of happy, upbeat songs. I like this move actually to show us the duality of human nature. We all have things we’ve dealt with, but many of us put on a smile when around our peers. This is even truer for people that end up committing suicide. I think the rest of the soundtrack fits for what is needed as well.
Now with that said, this is a film that I’m definitely glad I was told to check out. It really has such a dark feel to it and what this teacher does to get her revenge is great. I also like the social commentary here about this law in Japan, parents protecting their children and conversely the pressure parents put on their children. The film is edited in a way that keeps it from getting boring and I thought it had a great ending. The acting was really good across the board. There weren’t a lot in the way of effects, but what we got was solid. Soundtrack for the film does bring a nice duality and fit the scenes for what was needed. Overall I’d definitely recommend this if you like dark, psychological thriller. I’d say this is a really good movie.
My Rating: 9 out of 10