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After many unsuccessful fertility treatments, Satoko and her husband make the decision to adopt a child.

Six years after adopting a boy they name Asato, Satoko receives a phone call from a young woman named Hikari who says, “I want my son back.” Though Satoko and Hikari met briefly right after Asato was born, Satoko does not recognize the biological mother when she eventually shows up on the adoptive parents’ doorstep. If she is not Hikari, then who is she? True Mothers is classically compelling melodrama material that is even more involving and mysterious because of the striking shifts in time and narrative perspective employed by the prolific director and co-screenwriter Naomi Kawase, here adapting a novel by Mizuki Tsujimura. Kawase’s three-sectioned approach begins with the adoptive parents in the present day, then jumps back to show the viewer how they reached their decision to adopt, and then details Hikari’s story: what led to her pregnancy, and what led her to give up her child. As the storylines ultimately converge in the movie’s emotional final scenes, Kawase displays enormous compassion for her titular characters who are trapped in a fragile existence by the shame associated with unconventional motherhood. “The pacing is leisurely but doesn’t drag: this is a film which takes its time getting to know the characters and also makes a persuasive case that they are worth knowing” (Wendy Ide, Screen International). 2020 Toronto and Cannes Film Festivals. (JH)

Presented with support from UW-Madison Center for East Asian Studies.

  • Year
  • Runtime
    139 minutes
  • Language
  • Country
  • Director
    Naomi Kawase
  • Screenwriter
    Naomi Kawase, Izumi Takahash, An Tôn Thât, based on a novel by Mizuki Tsujimura
  • Producer
    Yumiko Takebe
  • Cast
    Satoko Kurihara, Kiyokazu Kurihara, Hikari Katakura, Shizue Asami
  • Cinematographer
    Yuta Tsukinaga, Naoki Sakakibara
  • Editor
    Tina Baz, Yoichi Shibuya Roman Dymny
  • Music
    Akira Kosemura, An Tôn Thât