True Mothers

Some children go through their lives without a mother. In Naomi Kawase’s True Mothers a young boy finds himself with two mothers. What happens over the over two hours long of the film is totally absorbing. Ponders the question of what you would do as an adoptive mother of a young boy if you were contacted by the biological mother, who wants to be a part of her son’s life?

A young Japanese couple, Satoko (Hiromi Nagasaku – Rebirth, Till Death Do Us What?) and Kiyokazu (Arata Iura – Air Doll, After Life), are very much in love and the time has come when they want to start a family. Sadly, despite all their efforts, they are told that they cannot have their own child. So the couple begins to look into adoption.

Through an adoption organization they successfully and joyously adopt an infant boy. As advised by the adoption organization, Satoko gives up her job to become a stay at home mom. Soon their young son becomes the center of their world. A very happy family.

That bliss is interrupted by a phone call by the boy’s biological mother, HIkari (Aju Makita – Shoplifters, After the Storm). Through flashbacks we see that Hikari never wanted to give up her child, but was forced to by her parents. She got pregnant very young at the age of 14. Hikari now wants to reconnect with her son.

Powerful stuff here. Even for those who have not had children. You can really imagine the feelings involved here as they are vividly brought to life by the cast and script. Standouts in the case are the two female leads, Nagasaku and Makita. Both do great jobs bringing to life their different sides of a coin.

Throughout her career so far director Naomi Kawase (Sweet Bean, Still the Water) has demonstrated herself one of the bright lights in Japanese film. She continues adding to that with her most recent film. True Mothers (a loaded title) is an adaptation of the 2015 novel by Mizuki Tsujimura. The story and emotions involved leap at you from the screen. All feelings are palpable. New ways of looking at motherhood and adoption are forwarded here. Plenty of food for thought about a subject you might have previously thought you had decided upon. But don’t be mistaken as this is not a gentile film. Rather it is at times rather intense and thrilling.

The film, which screened at the 2020 Cannes Film Festival as well as at TIFF, is Japan’s entry into the Oscars for Best International Feature Film.

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