iSugio

Nobody to Watch Over Me – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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When two children are found murdered, an eighteen-year-old high school student becomes the prime suspect, and the case quickly becomes a media sensation. As both the press and an angry public descend on the home of the accused, his family finds themselves at the mercy of strangers unconcerned with their welfare. Takumi Katsuyoshi is a veteran police detective who is assigned to look after Saori, the fifteen-year-old sister of the accused; while he initially regards the assignment as frivolous, it isn’t long before he sees what kind of toll the attention has taken on the family, and he becomes all the more concerned when he witnesses the reckless behavior of the paparazzi.

The media has always been presented as a controversial topic within films, especially within the realm of American cinema. Whether it be showcasing the absolute abuse of network television to achieve high ratings in the satirical film Network (1976), or the use of media manipulation to hide the adverse effects of smoking in Thank You for Smoking (2006), the promotion of the media as an advocate for exaggerated tales, sensationalist views, and even downright lies has taken center in some of the most interesting films highlighting the media-saturated culture we live in. Culturally, while America might express similar media prominence as the Japanese, Japan has a niche for going far and beyond to not only highlight an individual’s problems within the media, but to also specifically ask them to take account for it and apology publically—even if they were only loosely associated with the accused event or action.

This leads right into Nobody to Watch Over Me as a poignant tale concerning the realm of privacy and its constant struggle with media exposure. Shot in a style very reminiscent to actual media coverage—with restless camera movement and frenzied pacing—the film explores the media and its affect on a young girl named Saori, who just happens to be the younger sister of an accused murderer. With her emotional instability already increasing from her familial situation, it doesn’t help her at all that the press is constantly focusing on her and her parents for the accused actions of her brother. The media slowly begins to view Saori as nothing but a newsworthy scoop, constantly stalking and searching every aspect of her personal life that could lead to some information regarding her brother. Due to the outward pressure from the media to explore every possible facet of her identity, disgruntled citizens begin to view her as an outlet to express their distaste for her brother’s accused actions. When she is put under the watch of police detective Takumi Katsuyoshi, it’s not because she needs to be questioned or evaluated—rather, it’s because she needs to be protected from the brashness of both the media and public.

With the ever-increasing use of the Internet to rapidly spread news throughout countless websites and social networks, Nobody to Watch Over Me relentlessly showcases the hazardous ramifications of such outlets. Presumptive actions displayed on part of the public and media concerning the entirety of the story eventually leads to some hugely dangerous misunderstandings. Misinformation and disinformation are increasingly showcased throughout the film concerning Saori and her family—which is interesting to note because it’s really not them that caused the situation they’re in. Infatuated with discovering why her brother has been accused of such heinous acts, the media constantly shifts and revaluates putting their blame on the family for his supposed violent actions. Jumping to steady conclusions, the mere assumption that the brother has only been accused of the crime—not guilty of it—is sadly overlooked, instead replaced with overt scrutiny by the media that ultimately pervades the family structure and even the police investigation.

This approach by the film to bring awareness to the issue of media scrutiny is an important one primarily due its eventual breakdown of the family unit, ultimately forcing family members to stand alone in a time in which they need each other the most. This is amply shown when another tragedy occurs in which, due to the inner-politics of the police investigation, Saori is not even allowed to visit her own family due to the media presence outside their house. This eventually affects Takumi as well, whom we later learn has had his own dark past to contend with, and the film integrates his journey of redemption through his developing relationship with Saori. Their relationship shares a common connection—that of trying to comprehend the unfortunate circumstances they’ve experienced in their lives, which showcases they have more in common than initially thought. This relationship is kept to a minimum though, and it doesn’t necessarily flourish the way one would expect. While Saori’s situation is front and center throughout a majority of the film, it does take somewhat of a back step towards the end in regards to furthering the exploration of Takumi’s past, with the end result focusing on combining the two to present a rather unconventional conclusion. While Takumi’s past was important, it ultimately seem to somewhat distract from the main story, but it does bring it back to full focus towards the end.

Overall, Nobody to Watch Over Me is an eye-opening film focusing on the detachment of human understanding concerning the media in our modern era—especially in regards to the individual and subsequent family structure. While the promotion of sensationalism has and will probably remain a strong component of the media infrastructure, its influential effects on the individuals outside of the accused is a side not often times viewed within cinema. While we might as public viewers scoff, ridicule, and judge the accused of a crime before knowing proper information to make such a claim, what about the coping of the family? Aren’t their emotional struggles something to be considered? Do we ever think of how we could possibly find ourselves in a similar situation? If so, is this how we would like to be treated? Nobody to Watch Over Me actively explores the tangible as well as psychological influences that the media exerts on even the most vulnerable and innocent of our society, bringing forth some crucial ethical questions for us to consider in the process.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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