“Confessions” (also known as “Kokuhaku”) is a 2010 psychological thriller that revolves around a mother’s plot to exact vengeance on her daughter’s killers. It was directed by Tetsuya Nakashima. It was adapted from the debut novel of the same name by female author Kanae Minato, which sold more than 700,000 copies. The film has achieved as much success as the book did, continuously winning in many important categories at award ceremonies and film festivals, locally and internationally. It also represented Japan in the Best Foreign Language Film competition at the 38th Academy Film Festival.

“Confessions” showed the dark side of society using a school as a setting. As the plot progressed, the secrets and true personalities of the four main characters: a teacher and her three students are slowly revealed. They are Yuko Moriguchi (Takako Matsu),Shuuya Watanabe (Yukito Nishii), Naoki Shimomura (Kaoru Fujiwara), and Mizuki Katahara (Ai Hashimoto). Each of their subplots was shown sequentially and the conspiracy behind the plot gradually deepened with each one.

The first story is about Yuko Moriguchi, a teacher who devised a brilliant plan to exact revenge on her daughter’s killers. Her 15-minute speech in the first scene when she was accusing the two students as the perpetrators in her daughter’s death was long and slow, but it was a very important part of the movie and the perfect opening. The scene felt so real that it made the viewers get goosebumps. The viewers were also kept intrigued by the film’s plot and nonlinear storytelling.

Confessions” built the characters and the backstories realistically and incorporated everything in a very harmonious and vivid way, creating a fascinating feature of the film. All characters, regardless of their age or occupation, had their own pain and sufferings. These reflected the dark side of society: the stigma for people living with HIV/AIDS; the school violence; the indifference and insensitivity to people; and the gaps in the Japanese law on minors. These are the most pressing issues of society that were cleverly inserted into the film by director Tetsuya Nakashima with stories pieced together through confessions. With footages full of imagination, interwoven with slow-motion frames, and imbued with art in every detail, the message is transmitted to the viewers at all times. The audience constantly discards their previous predictions in the series of “unimaginable” events that happen one after another. The film made viewers realize that the truth is only revealed when the confession is given out. Images of adolescent children depicted by “Confessions” should make viewers tremble inside. Whether it’s the act of isolating and bullying or even murder, it all comes from extremely simple and innocent thoughts. They were so small that no one noticed that these thoughts grew and molded into a motive for murder. The movie showed the most haunting truth, that these little seeds are nurtured in the environment of children’s education and home by the adults themselves who should be carrying the responsibility of protecting them. “According to Article 41 of the Penal Code, children under 14 years of age are not responsible for their crimes and are not subject to punishment.” The law for minors unknowingly became allies, protecting the young killers. Ignoring the law, Ms. Moriguchi chose to punish those children on her own. When we saw Naoki Shimomura’s (Kaoru Fujiwara) crazy appearance and Shuuya Watanabe’s (Yukito Nishii) teary face, we understood that the last lesson about life was finally closed. But that does not mean that Moriguchi will regain her happiness because the only spiritual support for her, from the beginning, is gone. Behind a tragedy is nothing but a worse tragedy.

It is undeniable that the cast was able to portray their characters very well and was able to convey the message of the film. After director Tetsuya Nakashima read the novel, he asserted that the role of the teacher, Moriguchi, must be played by actress Takako Matsu. After the movie was released, the viewers also agreed with his choice. The actress excelled in portraying the image of a teacher: a calm face and gentle voice. But she always managed to capture the audience’s attention through her eyes and words. The child actors showcased their incredible acting abilities by being terrifying despite the fact that their characters are actually teenagers. These faces were selected from more than 1,000 candidates, and the 37 students of class B all had unique personalities. In particular, it is impossible not to mention the three main names of the movie, Yukito NishiiKaoru Fujiwara, and Ai Hashimoto, who had excellent performances even though they were only 14-15 years old. I loved Ai Hashimoto’s performance the most out of the three. The use of music is justifiable. Sometimes, composers are already content if the score goes well with the scene being portrayed. But here, the choice of music is such that it draws you into the scene. It evoked the correct emotions, which the scene can take advantage of. The soundtrack is the last element that helpfully depicted the art of the film. “Last Flowers“, especially, was like “singing” the theme of the entire work. With a slow melody, a leisurely voice to the beat of the frets, and sudden low notes, Radiohead‘s “Last Flowers” is an invisible catalyst that drove tragedies and truths in the movie to become more tangible, naked and harsher.

Overall, “Confessions” is a brilliant psychological thriller story with a hint of tragedy and drama. This movie kept me on my toes the entire time and every twist was worth the wait and some were even completely out of the left field. However, after they happened, you realize that they were actually very obvious. The use of slow-motion was sometimes a bit too much, but most of the time, it had a very good effect. The film is not just a series of confessions, but rather, a reference to the dark side of society. You should try this one if you enjoy psychological thrillers, even if you just want to try the genre. However, it might be too heavy for some viewers to handle.

Story: 9/10
Acting/Cast: 10/10
Cinematography: 8.5/10
Music: 9/10