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“True Mothers”, by Japanese director Naomi Kawase: a double look at adoption

Japanese director Naomi Kawase (Trip to Yoshino, Tokyo Delights) comes back with True Mothers, a very personal film, which evokes the two life paths that lead to the adoption of a child. Adapted from a bestselling novel in Japan, True Mothers is in theaters from July 28, 2021.

Satoko (Hiromi Nagasaku) and Kiyokazu (Atara Lura) live in a large, bright apartment, in a very tall building overlooking Tokyo Bay, in a district of the city under construction. They love each other very much and are raising their six-year-old son Asato with great love and care. An incident with a classmate from Asato and an unexpected phone call takes Satoko back in time.

A few years earlier, unable to have children, they adopted Asato in the “Baby Baton” house. This house of “daughter-mothers”, planted in the peaceful landscapes of the island of Hiroshima, welcomes and accompanies pregnant women, often very young girls, unable to raise their child or whose parents do not accept. the pregnancy. This is the case of Hikari (Aju Makita), 14 years old, Asato’s biological mother …

Almost like a documentary, this film evokes the winding paths of adoption. The originality of the film is to take an equal interest in the two life paths which lead to the adoption of a child. On the one hand, a loving couple discovering their sterility, and the feelings and questions that accompany this revelation, then the galleys of assisted procreation which they end up giving up, and finally the idea that gradually germinates to adopt a child, until the realization of this dream.

Arata Iura and Hiromi Nagasaku in the movie 'True Mothers', by Naomi Kawase, June 2021 (Top and Short)

On the other side, Hikari, a tidy young girl who falls in love with a classmate. Happiness, the joy of the first emotions of love, and a very first sexual intercourse which is enough to make Hikari pregnant. Then the anger of the families, the choice of the parents to keep all this secret, to send Hikari to give birth far from home, and to force her to abandon her child… Two long painful paths, which lead on one side to the happiness of Satoko and Kiyokazu, with the adoption of Asato, and on the other to the lingering melancholy of Hikari.

Aju Makita in "True Mothers", by Naomi Kawase, June 2021 (Haut et Court)

True Mothers, in the official selection of Cannes in 2020, is a sensitive film served by a team of magnificent actors. The film is long, as is the road to adoption. The camera captures this passing time, and the emotions of the protagonists, from both sides of the mirror.

The director punctuates the time and evokes the feelings of her characters with beautiful shots of nature, the seasons, the sea, which contrast with the verticality of the city, its cranes, its din. The decorations also give us indications on the cultural and social realities of Japan, which can explain certain behaviors, such as for example the apartment of the family of Hikari, -tatamis and shojis- signs of a family remained attached to the traditions.

Another camera, another ear, discreetly present inside the film, captures the faces, the silences, the hands that join together, the tears that bead, and collects the testimonies in the manner of a documentary, slightly behind , listening.

“I place myself as the director of this fictional film, but also as the director of the documentary within this film.”

Naomi kawase


What is a “real mother”? What is a good mother? Why do we want to be parents? How do mothers feel when they are forced to abandon their babies? Beyond the question of adoption, it is that of motherhood, the desire for motherhood and parenthood, which is evoked in this new film by Naomi Kawase, herself abandoned and then adopted. The subject is treated with nuance and tenderness, the scenario ultimately offering everyone, like a remedy, their right place. Heartwarming.

Poster "True Mothers", by Naomi Kawase, June 2021 (top and short)

Gender: drama
Director: Naomi kawase
With : Arata Iura, Hiromi Nagasaku, Aju Makita
Country : Japan
Duration : 2H20
Exit : July 28, 2021
Distributer : High and Short

Synopsis: Satoko and her husband are forever linked to Hikari, the 14-year-old girl who gave birth to their adopted son Asato. Today Asato is 6 years old and the family lives happily in Tokyo. But Hikari wishes to reconnect with the family, so she will cause a meeting …

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