(director: Hirokazu Koreeda; screenwriter: Yuji Sakamoto; cinematographer:Ryuto Kondo; editor: Hirokazu Koreeda; music: Ryuichi Sakamoto; cast: Sakura Andô (Saori), Eita Nagayama (Mr. Hori), Soya Kurasawa (Minato), Hinata Hiiragi (Yori), Mitsuki Takahata (Mrs Fushimi), Tanaka Yuko (school principal), Hinata Hiiragi (Eri); Runtime: 126; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Kawamura Genki, Yamada Kenji, Banse Megumi, Ito Taichi, Taguchi Hijiri; Toho; 2023-Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles)

“The director’s compassion for all the concerned parties is much welcomed.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A lyrical and unpredictable thriller about dealing with family dysfunction. It’s warmly directed by the Japanese filmmaker
Hirokazu Koreeda (“Our Little Sister”/”Shoplifters”) and written by Yuji Sakamoto.

The monster here is the combo of all these things working as one against the chosen family and school:
bullying, homophobia,  uncritical obedience to  authority, and social media false messaging.

A building burns to the ground. It’s the site of a sleazy hostess-bar. Rumor has it that one of its customers was the teacher Mr. Hori (
Eita Nagayama). One of his students, the pre-teen, Minato (Soya Kurasawa), tells his single mother Saori (Sakura Ando) that Mr. Hori slapped him and humiliated him in class by calling him a ‘pig brain.’

The angry mom, still grieving the death ot her grandson,
confronts the principal (Yuko Tanaka), and gets in return an insincere apology from the teacher. This makes mom only more angry. Then Mr. Hori retorts that her son was bullying another gentler student Eri (Hinata Hiiragi). This claim is substantiated by others, until it came under dispute through flashbacks.

The contrived human interest story had little affect on me. But the director’s compassion for all the concerned parties is much welcomed. The director also gets wonderfully honest performances from the kids.

It played at Cannes.