Reviewed by: James Benefield

From the outset, it's clear that Confessions has been based on a novel. The depth of character, observation and back story is at first overwhelming. Spread out over several hundred pages, a reader could inhabit the world which its writer has created. As a writer of the screenplay, Tetsyuma Nakashimi crams in as much detail as possible, while as a director Nakashimi is keen on making a film as cinematic as he can. It looks beautiful, for one thing.

The film begins with a confession, of sorts. A teacher (Takako Matsu) has infected, with blood from her ailing, AIDS-ridden partner, the milk drunk by two of her students. She believes these students murdered her young daughter. The confession has a massive impact on both these students' lives, and the classmates also privy to the revelation. It leads to one of them questioning the very nature of their life, and another to go in search of his estranged mother.

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The tale is told by four different voices, and Nakashimi cuts between all these – making this a rather challenging, demanding experience for the audience. This is especially true as there are sections which tend to repeat parts of the story – in a Rashomon style. However, it's an essential, structural tool to rein all the film's content in. To lubricate any firing synapses, the film is scored like a music video. Barely a moment goes by when we're not hearing a bit of moody American indie music or a mournful slice of Radiohead.

However, the emotional anchor that really weighs you down comes in the quality of the performances. The two that stand out in particular are the young students – Student A and Student B. Both their journeys are incredibly different, but are as equally as heartbreaking. And it is the performances, and not the characters which make this possible. With its theme of vigilante justice, the film's moral compass is all over the place, and the accompanying twisting, turning plot could (and sometimes does) seem quite unbelievable. Matsu's portrayal of the grieving teacher is also great – she is an incredibly controlled presence, who only exudes anger from her actions, rather than through her face.

So while a difficult, challenging experience - both emotionally and cerebrally - this is a masterful, endlessly intriguing piece. If you can forgive the slightly hokey plot and buy into the emotional truth of the film, you'll be rewarded immensely.

Reviewed on: 19 Feb 2011
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A teacher who thinks two of her pupils are responsible for the death of her daughter takes revenge.
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Director: Tetsuya Nakashima

Writer: Tetsuya Nakashima, based on the book by Kanae Minato.

Starring: Takako Matsu, Masaki Okada, Yoshino Kimura

Year: 2010

Runtime: 106 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Japan


Glasgow 2011

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