TRUE MOTHERS – A Review by John Strange

TRUE MOTHERS – A Review by John Strange

This is a film that is about many things: teen sex and its consequences, couples fighting to have children of their own and failing, and the good and bad that can come from putting the two together.

Satoko Kurihara (Hiromi Nagasaku) and her husband Kiyokazu (Arata Iura) want to have children, to have a family, but this will not happen through childbirth.  Hikari Katakura (Aju Makita) is a 14-year-old girl in the 8th grade who falls for a boy and gets pregnant, to the shame of her parents.

The three, plus the baby, are brought together by an organization called Baby Baton.  Satoko and Kiyokazu adopt Hikari’s newborn baby, Asato, to raise as their own.  One of the conditions in the contract is that the new parents must let the child know about his birth mother when he gets older.

Hikari’s life is a disaster, thanks to parents who obviously cannot recover from the shame their daughter has brought upon them.  And her life bounces around as she attempts to survive on her own.

The two worlds eventually crash together when Hikari attempts to force the new parents to return her son to her or pay her to be allowed to keep him.

The film is shot as two plotlines that go back and forth as the story unfolds, complete with way too many artistic shots of water, birds, trees, and islands for me.  At the end of the two-hour-and-twenty-minute film, the two plots finally merge and give us a resolution that is palatable and, in many ways, heartwarming.

This is a film that some may not understand.  It is about honor, and the problems (and blessings) that honor can bring.  I trimmed the rating by half a star for its padding but it is still a 4.5-star effort on the part of director Naomi Kawase. 

This is Japan’s Oscar® entry for Best International Film this year and premieres via Virtual Cinema on January 29, 2021.


Director: Naomi Kawase

Cast: Hiromi Nagasaku, Arata Iura, Aju Makita, Reo Sato, Hiroko Nakajima, Tetsu Hirahara, Ren Komai, Taketo Tanaka

MPAA Rating: NR

Selig Rating: 4.5 Stars

Runtime: 140 Min.

Language: Japanese with English Subtitles

Trailer: TRUE MOTHERS Trailer


The Selig Rating Scale:

5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.

4 Stars – Good movie

3 Stars – OK movie

2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.

1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it

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