This, along with Chan Is Missing (which is of the same era), is one of my favorite movies of all time and for pretty much the same reasons: It proves that all you really need is good writing, good acting and good directing.Special effects and even high production values are secondary, possibly even irrelevant. (I think this film is vastly superior to The Day After, which dealt with the same plot and came out at approximately the same time.) I don't want to repeat what others have already said so eloquently. I just want to point out some highlights that demonstrate the structure and subtlety of this film by a highly regarded female director.
CAUTION POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD At the start, the town's children are practicing, and eventually, despite everything, they do perform, the play, "The Pied Piper of Hamlin." In that famous medieval story, the children of the the town all disappear because of the short-sightedness and stubbornness of the adults. Think about that, and you will see the connection here.
When the movie begins, the protagonist's biggest problem is obtaining an appropriate gift for her son's upcoming birthday. By the time the birthday arrives, she is lucky that the child is even still alive.
The handicapped Japanese-American child "Hiroshi" has already been mentioned. But there is another reminder of World War II -- the Elden female music teacher, apparently an Orthodox Jewish Holocaust survivor.
To me, the single most heartbreaking moment in the film is when the screen goes to black and you hear the sound of cloth ripping. You know that the mother is tearing up bedsheets to make a shroud for her child.
I wish that this film would be shown on television again -- as soon as possible. I think some people in Washington need to see it.
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