Four young siblings, abandoned by their mother, live on their own for months in a tiny Tokyo apartment, their presence unknown to the outside world. Based on a true story and shot over a year, this near masterpiece from writer-director Hirokazu Kore-eda (Maborosi, After Life) doesn't depict the kids' plight strictly as a living hell: we see the trash piling up and faces getting dirtier, but the film also shows the joyful potential of a world without parents or teachers. Yuya Yagira, winner of the best actor award at Cannes in 2004, is superb as the protective eldest child; he and his costars, all nonprofessionals, are quietly heartbreaking. In Japanese with subtitles. PG-13, 141 min.

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