Film Review: Tetsuya Nakashima’s ‘Confessions’
Directed by Tetsuya Nakashima
Review by Laurent Hasson
I have three kids, three boys who are 11, 8 and 2. To be frank, it’s a strange feeling. I deeply love them, but on a regular basis, I am overwhelmed with fantasies of throwing them out the window to get rid of them plain and simple. Kids forever change your life so that at the most visceral level, your life is no longer yours. Kids are difficult to “manage”, and sometimes, it’s easy as an adult to view their actions as if they were motivated by adult emotions: it’s called Projection and it’s a common psychological behavior. By that I mean simply that as an overworked parent with a kid who repeatedly pushes all your bad buttons over and over again, it’s hard to not take it personally. Yet, at the same time, kids are clearly kids, and you are left with your parental emotions primarily driven by love, and your incapacity to do anything but take it in the stomach, teach your kids about proper behavior, and move on. Repeat, rinse… a lot. If you don’t have kids yet, you can’t say I haven’t warned you.
That fantasy of retaliation is very real, and can take on all sorts of forms. The horror genre is full of such examples where kids do bad things and adults struggle (or not) with their response. Narciso Ibáñez Serrador’s fantastic Who Can Kill A Child? From 1976 is a classic of the genre where the juvenile population on some island is beset by some disease that turns them all into killers. Along with laughter and play, all the kids on the island jovially massacre every single adult they can find. And the adults? They are incapable to respond against their own children and get massacred. The film is about how adults struggle with their response to unstoppable murderous kids. Tom Shankland made The Children in 2008, which is very similar but not nearly as good.
Powerlessness is a key ingredient in many horror films, and whether you are paralyzed by some drug while a psycho chops you up, or frozen by fear while a boogeyman hunts you down, or incapable of reacting when your own child comes at you with an axe, it all comes down to witnessing your demise without the ability to defend yourself. Many other films have explored that relationship between adults and children where children are in the driver seat so to speak. How many zombie films feature that scene where an adult finds it extremely hard to shoot a zombie kid in the head? How about all the Omen films and their numerous copycats? How about Village Of The Damned or Battle Royale? “Kids gone mad” is a popular subgenre.
But let’s take that basic fear and make it real. Unfortunately, there is no lack today of stories of kids perpetrating horrible crimes. To the law, they are kids and subject to a very different treatment than an adult. But what if you do find extreme malice? What if you do see a glimpse of evil in those cute and tiny eyes? That pushes many commentators and politicians to seriously advocate that in some cases, kids should be tried as adults. So let’s assume… Let’s assume a child commits such a horrible crime, and you know it was all planed, and intended, and you are one a key victim of that crime? How would you respond?
In Confessions we are exposed to that very scenario. Yuko is a teacher in 8th or maybe 9th grade whose five year old daughter is killed by two of her students. It wasn’t an accident: the two kids had planned it, researched how to do it, and knew clearly that if they were to be caught, they wouldn’t suffer much consequence since they were kids. It was all a very sinister and open plot, to just see how it would feel to kill someone. They boasted about it in class, they texted their friends about it and so on. Being distraught, destroyed even, by the event, what’s a mother to do? What follows deserves to be classified as one of the most complex, elaborate, twisted revenge ever committed to celluloid. Oldboy almost becomes a second-class story in comparison. Yuko will not let this be, and she proceeds to destroy the lives of those two kids is very cruel, satisfying yet conflicting ways. For starter, she injects some AIDS-tainted blood in their lunch drinks one days, and then goes on telling the entire class what she did, and why. That’s just the beginning.
Not only is this film incredibly made (it’s gorgeously filmed, with a fantastic soundtrack and great performances overall), but it’s also just plain riveting. The extent Yuko will go to exact her revenge is nothing short of astonishing. But more importantly, the social satire elements in this film are in full force. How adults react to those crimes is perhaps the most interesting piece in this film. From apologetic, to deeply shocked and motivated to exact a severe punishment, to denial, we get a rich painting of a modern society, which in this case just happens to be Japan. There are interesting cultural aspects that people not familiar with Japanese culture will find difficult to accept, but do exercise a bit of suspension of disbelief and you’ll maximize your enjoyment of this ride.
I was personally most attracted by the thought of what would have become of those kids had Yuko not intervened in the way she did? I mean, what Soul wouldn’t be irremediably soiled after such an act? Had those kids not been caught, god knows what they would have turned into as adults! This is a very strong thriller that borders on horror because of its themes and very violent undertones, even though it’s not gore-filled. Trust me, it’s plenty violent enough.
When the film closes with the last piece of Yuko’s devilish plan, she sheds a tear, and it’s hard to know whether it’s a tear of joy or remorse. Maybe it’s both? This film can be best described as the result of a mad scientist taking the DNA of OldBoy, Donnie Darko, Battle Royale and Suicide Circle, and splicing it all in a shiny new Oscar-worthy package that will have you glued to your seats the moment the lights start dimming. Find it and watch it.
Two trailers are included below – the first is a better looking, higher-quality non-subtitled trailer. A lower quality trailer with sub-titles is below.