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  Confessions Class Guilt Trip
Year: 2010
Director: Tetsuya Nakashima
Stars: Takako Matsu, Yoshino Kimura, Masaki Okada, Yukito Nishii, Kaoro Fujiwara, Ai Hashimoto, Hirofumi Arai, Makiya Yamaguchi, Ikuyo Kuroda, Mana Ashida, Soichiro Suzuki, Kinuwo Yamada, Hiroko Ninomya, Tsutomo Takahashi
Genre: Horror, Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Miss Yuko Morguchi (Takako Matsu) is a schoolteacher with an announcement to make to her class of young teenagers, and it will take some time to relate. The kids are unruly and most of them are barely listening to her as they drink down their cartons of milk, supplied as part of a health drive, but the longer she goes on, the quieter they become. She starts by explaining that she will be leaving at the end of term which is not too far away, and outlines her reasons, which include the death of her daughter, who was a miracle baby in that her father was HIV positive but the little girl was not...

Director Tetsuya Nakashima was probably best known for his film Kamikaze Girls, but he made almost as much impact with this, a bleak tale of vengeance largely played out before the audience in a series of illustrated voiceovers. This technique, of having one character talk for a long stretch then have another pick up the baton to continue the story, offered an oppressive atmosphere, and the gloomy but precise visuals suggested that this was not going to end well, and indeed had not started well as Miss Yuko ends up blaming the death of her daughter on two of the schoolkids in her class.

She doesn't come out and state who the murderers are, but she does elucidate on what she believes was behind their act, a combination of a science geek and a hanger-on who wanted to impress him leading to the girl being electrocuted as a prank, or so we think until we realise that these two actually wanted to kill someone, knowing the law would be on their side as juveniles will not be sent to prison for life. As if Nakashima was making a claim that when a young killer grows up there's no way he will be rehabilitated, he seemed to be very against any kind of liberal policy that would allow the victims and perpetrators of terrible crimes to move on.

Applying this to thirteen-year-old boys was obviously going to be emotive, but given how rare such cases of kids killing kids were, you wouldn't have thought that it was a problem that deserved such an elaborate presentation as it did here. Granted, it was a fictional story, but the director was so misanthropic, dragging everyone in the story around the incident into a downward spiral of ruined lives, that to call Confessions a bitter experience would be something of an understatement. Once Yuko has dropped her bombshell, he takes it upon himself to regard the troublesome matter of bullying, repeating that it takes the form of the weak exploiting the weakest, yet not providing any solutions.

If anything, Nakashima delivered a lecture on how bullying can be used to an advantage, to not simply use it against the target yourself, but to get everyone else to join in, thus punishing the object of your disdain for whatever perceived justification you had. What made this uncomfortable was that as a viewer we could see this was not a basic case of the outcast getting picked on for not fitting in, but Nakashima had provided solid reasons for us to agree that these kids deserved to be bullied, thus inviting us to become complicit in some very ugly behaviour. That's not to say he let the potential for a thriller narrative slip through his fingers, but to concoct a plot so farfetched and then welcome our abhorrence did not seem too healthy, and by the end we had to consent that nobody came out of this looking good, so before long the suspense - which was present - had given way to a darkhearted and frankly unpleasantly manipulative affair accusing us all of easily giving in to our worst instincts. Music by Toyohiko Kanahashi.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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