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  Publicity Stills of
"Nobody To Watch Over Me"
(Courtesy of Cathay-Keris Films)

In Japanese with English and Chinese Subtitles
Director: Ryoichi Kimizuka
Cast: Koichi Sato, Mirai Shida, Ryuhei Matsuda, Yuriko Ishida, Kuranosuke Sasaki, Shiro Sano, Yoshino Kimura, Toshiro Yanagiba
RunTime: 1 hr 58 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Rating: PG
Official Website:

Opening Day: 11 June 2009 (The Picturehouse)


A teenage girl whose brother has been arrested for murder, and the cop assigned to protect her. Both are on the run from an angry public that has already passed judgment on their lives.

Movie Review:

There’s an eerie sense of realism to Ryoichi Kimizura’s latest film, a movie that works on so many levels that it’s simply captivating to watch. It begins with a prologue of what happens when a minor is arrested in Japan- in such circumstances, the family members of the accused are separated for questioning while the police are tasked to protect them.

Why such police protection is necessary becomes apparent in this story that unfolds documentary-style when an 18-year old boy is arrested in his suburban home for the horrific stabbing of two young sisters. Almost instantaneously, the peace of the usually quiet neighbourhood is broken by the presence of hundreds of reporters. Yes, scandal and crime have always been fodder for sensationalism and the media can no doubt sense a good story when they see one.

The focus of Kimizura’s movie is on the accused’s sister, a 15-year old fresh-eyed secondary school girl called Saori (played beautifully by Mirai Shida) whose life is suddenly turned upside down by the media frenzy. Unsatisfied with the suspect in custody, the public, with some generous help from the media, have quickly turned the blame to her entire family, calling on them to apologise. And in turn, the press have set after each member of the family like hound dogs chasing their prey.

Assigned to protect Saori is Detective Katsuura (Koichi Sato), a weary police officer still traumatised by an incident three years ago. No thanks to the vigilance of a certain reporter, his past has been dredged up by the press, and by association with Saori, becomes the target of their scrutiny as well. However inopportune, this is their bond- both victims of a critical media carelessly fanning the tide of negative public sentiment against them.

With a deft hand, writer/director Kimizura vividly brings to light what it means to be trialled by the media and pronounced guilty by a reproachful public. Don’t be too quick to dismiss such a circumstance as far-fetched- just think of how the foreign press too quickly came to the conclusion that pilot suicide was behind the Silkair crash some ten years ago, a mere conjecture that was later proved unfounded, and you’ll realise such a predicament can indeed happen in real life.

Kimizura also makes his warning more prescient by alluding to the dangers of the new media, a media so open that the lines between media and public blur. Founded on the basis of speed, it is also where rumours and gossip easily spread like wildfire. And perhaps even direr, it is under a cloak of anonymity that many netizens simply let their words and feelings run callously free. Yes, if we haven’t thought about what it feels like to be a subject chewed up by the media, here’s a perfect opportunity to do so.

But more than just a criticism of the media, Kimizura’s film also packs a powerful message about family. Both physically and symbolically, Saori finds her family abruptly ripped apart by the actions of her brother whose reasons for his crime will only become clear at the end. Extreme though it may be, this is still a persuasive cautionary tale about family dysfunction and its ramifications on every member within.

Nicely complementing this story arc is Katsuura’s own family woes- a wife about to launch divorce proceedings against him and a daughter making a last-ditch attempt to save their family. While it probably comes as no surprise that Katsuura will eventually find his redemption, both domestically and professionally, he does so in a particularly poignant way that drives home the significance of treasuring the family we have.

The power of Kimizura’s film therefore lies in its uncanny ability to weave two separate but no less pressing social issues- the perils of our new media and the brokenness of modern-day families- into a compelling tale that is as thought-provoking as it is touching. Rarely is social drama so gripping and affecting at the same time, and that is this movie’s greatest accomplishment.

Movie Rating:

(Social drama at its best- this is as thought-provoking as it is poignant and just as affecting either way)

Review by Gabriel Chong


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