Confessions is Japanese drama/thriller that claims to be a psychological thrill ride. When her four year old daughter is murdered by pupils in her class, a grieving school teacher takes it upon herself to do what the legal system will not; punish the murderers.
Confessions seems to be confused about which side it wants to take, and gives a multitude of mixed messages about justice. One minute we despise the murderers, angry that the legal system does not punish minors who commit murder because of their age, the next we are forced to understand and feel sorry for them. Each character has a ridiculously exaggerated back story leaving not one relatable character for the audience to grasp on to. Instead we’re faced with this vastly over the top story which bears very little resemblance to reality.
It does present a very clever form of story telling, through the confessions of everyone involved in the murder of the little girl. An important part of any legal system in a quest for justice is of course hearing every side of the story, so the audience are entitled to form their own opinions of each character on their own without mediation. However because every character has such an unrelatable story it’s difficult to feel empathy for any of them. Obviously having never been a mother I couldn’t possibly presume to guess how one would act when ones child is murdered, but Yuko Moriguchi‘s (played by Takako Matsu) intricate and extravagant quest to seek revenge on the two boys responsible seems very contrived and unlikely. It may well not be unrealistic, but for the average audience member I would suspect it’s difficult to relate to!
The film is beautifully shot and very claustrophobic; when we do venture outside the bleak and crowded classroom, the locations we end up in are equally confined, which adds nicely to the tension and suspense. The scenes concerning one of the two murderers, Naoki (played by Kaoru Fujiwara) and his mother are genius and their story is probably the most relatable. Their performances are fantastic, particularly Fujiwara’s in his portrayal of a volatile and mentally disturbed boy. The cinematography is well constructed and the film has a very bleak and colourless feel taking away any warmth and fitting nicely with the theme of murder, grief and revenge.
Confessions must have done something right to warrant such good reviews, but it just wasn’t what I had hoped for. I wanted desperately to enjoy it but shortly after the one hour mark I was willing it to end. I wasn’t on the edge of my seat like I’d hoped and nothing about the film was relatable. The difficulty I had to relate to any of the characters hindered my engagement with the film as I found I didn’t care about any of them. Pointing the finger at all the mothers’ in the film happened a little too often for my liking and it soon became tiresome; it was the mother of the four year olds fault for letting her daughter out of her sight and it was Shuya Watanabe’s mother’s fault that he murdered the four year old (and her fault for all his other murderous tendencies) because she’d abandoned him, and killing was his way to try to get her attention. Of course this could easily have been the films’ way of highlighting the societal tendency to shift the blame onto someone else, and to underline the absurdity of the law in not punishing minors for murder however I soon grew tired of it. The film just went round in circles, it dragged on for what felt like an eternity and the soundtrack was very jarring! As much as I can appreciate it as a good film, it’s definitely not for me!