The children are not all right in this tale of unspeakable cruelty. When a 13-year-old incites heart-wrenching tragedy with a crossbow, all he can do is deny it. This fascinating twist on the scourge of bullying takes no prisoners. Moral questions are mantled here not by genre tropes, but as an all too true life story ripped from the headlines, with harrowing repercussions. This intense edge-of-your-seat cautionary thriller delivers a scathing expose of codified violence, a failed judicial system and the frightening dissolution of moral conscience.
Starring: Uemura Yu, Abe Takuya, and Sumikawa Ryuju
Directed by: Naito Eisuke
A New York Asian Film Festival Review
“Forgiven Children” takes a deep dive into the horrors of bullying. Kira (Uemura Yu) is bullied as a little boy, and then around the age of 13 the roles are reserved. He’s now a bully in a small group of friends. One day the group is hanging out when Kira calls for another boy to bring them some crossbows. He gets there late, which already puts Kira in a bad mood. Not long into playing, Kira takes aim at the boy, and is about to make a decision that will change his life.
Kira strikes the boy right in the neck causing him to go down by the water side. The group slowly watches him die before making a run for it. It doesn’t take long for Kira to be identified as the killer, and his case is taken to court. Injustice roars its head again, as he gets off the hook. While he manages to escape official guilt, he can’t escape the ghosts of his past.
As the audience watches this, especially early on, it might wonder if they will ever like this boy after what he’s done. Well he never does a whole lot to change their minds. He has a bad attitude, and his parents don’t help. They encourage him to lie to get out of jail, and then take him out of the city trying to find a place from them all to get a fresh start. They all learn that this isn’t something they can run from.
While he acts like he doesn’t care, the back-half of the movie shows how everything weighs on him. Kids at his new school make it known to everyone what he’s done, and stirs his emotions even more. He gets involved with a girl, who seems wise beyond her years, but not even she can turn his life around when it seems like he might want to. The film has an interesting moment where it shows him just running and destroying stuff, basically spinning out of control. It’s kind of reflective of how his life has spun out of control since that day.
Again, “Forgiven Children” focuses largely on Kira but also gives a little screen time to the dead boy’s parents, and the audience will almost certainly feel their pain. Another interesting view point is that of the public. There are a few times the movie transitions to a new chapter in his life, and in doing so the audience gets to hear people’s opinions of him. Lets just say they aren’t usually nice, and might be considered bullies themselves. So yes, the movie covers many angles of bulling with a focus on the bully. Kira may never be liked, even in the end, but that’s to be expected with what he’s done, and the lack of justice served. In an era of bullying, this film definitely shows the harsh consequences of what happens when bullying goes too far. With that, I give it 3 pools of blood!
More info about this film at: www.nyaff.org/nyaff20/films/forgiven-children