Mirai Shida (left) and Koichi Sato (right) star in Nobody to Watch over Me.
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Japan's official Oscar submission to the Best Foreign Language category, Nobody to Watch over Me revolves around the media chaos that ensues after a minor is accused of the heinous murder of two young girls. Because the accused criminal is a minor, his family is offered protective custody and new identities. However, a series of tragic events leaves the family's 15-year-old daughter Saori (Mirai Shida) on her own. As the media and individual citizens continually seek out and threaten the young girl while she is in hiding, she finds herself with only a burned out policeman Katsuura (Koichi Sato) to protect her.
With an original premise, the movie is an enjoyable if sometimes emotionally draining film. The dramatic music at the beginning and ending of the film seemingly signals that we will be talking about “serious subjects” which feels in many ways to be too heavy handed. However, the shaky camera work gives the movie an almost documentary tone and the concepts of omnipresent media and constant surveillance gives the film great relevance in the current media landscape.
In Nobody, Saori is constantly pursued and her well being continually threatened by individuals that find her relation to an accused killer intolerable. While Katsuura tries to hide her and initially her identity is unknown, paparazzi and onlookers are able to find her in each location, mainly aided by bloggers who post information about the girl online. Though the police often shutdown these sites, new ones quickly pop up, with postings detailing dangerously personal information about Saori. The idea that someone is always watching, that we are never truly alone and nothing is private anymore in a world in which cameras and the internet has shrunk everything into close proximity is not only interesting but incredibly relevant. This might be somewhat negated by an ending that feels as much uplifting as it does overly sentimental. Overall the film presents compelling subjects and is often engaging though it occasionally has somewhat overly dramatic moments.
Nobody to Watch over Me played at the Palm Springs International Film Festival Friday, January 8 and 9. Stay tuned to see if this movie picks up an Oscar nomination!