The opening scenes establish the unforced style of Nobody Knows, a heart-rending film by Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda about four Tokyo youngsters who are abandoned by their mother. The mother (played by the actress You) appears before a new landlord in the company of her sober, alert-eyed 12-year-old son Akira (Yûya Yagira); gift in hand, she explains with engaging self-effacement that they’re alone and that she hopes they can count on the couple to watch out for them.
It’s a routine she’s perfected. What she’s really doing is purchasing the landlords’ unwitting complicity—that is, their remoteness—by assuring them that she’s respectable and won’t be any trouble. Meanwhile Akira’s youngest siblings, Shigeru (Hiei Kimura) and Yuki (Momoko Shimizu), are packed away in the luggage, and Kyoko (Ayu Kitaura), the second oldest, is waiting at the bus station for Akira so he can sneak her into the apartment.