Drama, Films, Japan, Recommended posts, Reviews

Sunk Into The Womb

There’s no doubt that Takaomi Ogata’s third film descends into unpleasant territory, but it’s well worth watching – just go in forewarned…

Sunk Into the Womb begins as a tender, credible everyday depiction of a loving mother (Emiko Izawa, The Unbroken, Zettai reido: Mikaiketsu jiken tokumei sôsa) whose world revolves around her two young children, but her marriage is on the rocks. Her husband’s ‘late nights’ are soon explained when he announces he is leaving her and the children for another woman. Within the confines of her flat – which director Takaomi Ogata (Body Temperature, Never Ending Blue) never steps beyond – we see her obligation to her children become a prison.

Finding work at a hostess bar, she finds an escape that also leads to new relationships, however fleeting they might be. But when one new beau invites her to go away with him for a few days, she leaves her children behind anxiously awaiting her return.

What happens next is a parents’ worst nightmare of what their children might get up to if their backs are turned for five seconds, from raiding the cleaning cupboard to trying to open cans with sharp knives or playing with large plastic bags. Ogata’s approach may be a little sensationalised, but the naturalistic, unforced performances he gets from child actors Kino Tsuchiya and Aoi Tsuchiya make it believable and all the more horrific to watch.

Certainly Kore-eda Hirokazu’s Nobody Knows springs to mind, with its children left unsupervised for long periods. Like Kore-eda, director Ogata found inspiration in real life newspaper headlines, and a particular case in 2010 where two children were found dead in the trash. Far from wanting to demonise the mother, Ogata states he wants to highlight the current situation in Japan, where single mothers work long hours without the support available in Europe and the US. (And considering the state of affairs here, that is indeed saying something.)

Ogata builds the character sympathetically; we see her turn from talented and resourceful homemaker to lonely single mother, yearning to break free of the confines of the flat and stress of bringing up her children alone. There are suggestions that her actions might be a cynical depression, perhaps repressed by a seemingly happy marriage, rather than any wanton malevolence; pulling common threads with Shinya Tsukamoto’s Kotoko, where a single mother suffers from a particular mental disorder and depression.


Shooting from knee height, a child’s eye-level that takes on greater relevance as the film progresses, there’s deceptively unfussy camera work by Takashi Horinouchi as we watch the debris mount up on the floors. There’s effective parroting of the opening scene with the mothers period, as the young girl cannot get to the toilet so has no choice but to go where she stands. He uses long takes that let the action shift into focus, rather than follow it eagerly. This effect pushes adults heads out of shot, deliberately disembodying them.

And yet this disembodiment also distances us from the mother and her emotions. Upon her return to the flat, her impassive, matter-of-fact responses to the repercussions seem to further push us away from sympathising with her actions. However natural a reaction that might be for someone in shock, it creates an uncertainty; making those actions seem almost premeditated and undermining some of the initial portrayal of her character.

Unfortunately this results in preventing us from associating with mother on a personal. The raw, thorny subject matter will no doubt will have audiences raging ‘how could you’ at our lead, rather than question how or why, which is the director’s original pretext.

Ogata’s understated direction within the constricted location of the flat is stunning. Despite the minimal location, this doesn’t look cheap or unconsidered. His appreciation for pace and holding that imagery for longer than is comfortable makes for haunting and emotional viewing. This is just the sort of film that will fair better in a festival environment where audiences are more prepared to be challenged than in any sort of commercial setting or wider release, and that is a shame: this deserves to be seen.

Sunk Into The Womb is currently looking for distribution and we really hope to see this at upcoming festivals.

Special thanks to Yoshito Seino for the preview copy!

About the author

Andrew Heskins
Founder of easternKicks.com, which he's been running since 2002. And it's all thanks to Monkey, Water Margin and those damn fantastic 80s Hong Kong action movies! Andy works as a graphic designer in London... More »
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18 thoughts on “Sunk Into The Womb

  1. Tack Chadwick says:

    Just watched from Malaysia. What an epic. Just for not making any thoughts but is that toddler n her sister really dead in that film?

    What really happened to the mother? Suicide jump from the flat?

  2. lena says:

    As much as it has disturbing elements looking at another perspective it can and possible to anyone. This is to haunt the awaken mind to set a good mind before Committing without any thoughts or as u could say a selfish person. It is reminded that the value of livelihood and how the world can be so ”violent”. If this is real my love and prayers for the kids that passed. God loves you more.

  3. Andrew Heskins says:

    Remember, this is fiction, though based on some true events. What this film does do is highlight a very serious issue in Japanese society, that single mothers in particular are not supported as they would be in other cultures, and that they come to see their children as a burden on their lives.

  4. kim naddy abdy says:

    this is not the movie that I would like or love to watch… its too sad for me..
    I keep thinking about my daughter while watching this movie eventho I just click forward n forward… hope this thing will be notice by the Japan’s government.. and take it as a task in order to make sure this thing would not happen in reality… pls do help who need the support …

  5. Aida Abdullah says:

    This story remind me of a real story of a mother, who left her disabled child , muhammad firdaus, few years ago. The mother motive was still debated and the child passed away almost a year after being rescued. People always said the mother is mean, but nobody blaming the father. If the father is more responsible, i believe this tragedy would not happen in the first place

  6. iena ibrahim says:

    Tak sanggup nak tenggok…walaupun takut nk menonton smpai habis filem ni..tpi saya kuatkan jiwa ni..utk tahu penamat filem ni..memang sedih…sanggup seorang ibu berbuat demikian kepada anak2nya…

  7. No name says:

    I wonder is sora die for real? Because the way sachi tell her mother that sora not move is like real?? How they make the film look like real. Also the scenes when sachi n sora die, really look real. Is there any video the making of sunk into the womb?

  8. Andrew Heskins says:

    I don’t think you need worry about that. Kudos to the director for making it look real, but it IS just a work of fiction! No one was even hurt during the filming. 🙂

  9. Siti sohailah says:

    Sora died of drinking the detergent. There s a scene, sora shower to her sister that he really wanted to drink the detergent but his sister didnt let him. But sora is very persuasive so might be he was drinking the detergent. I also wonder, why the mother taped sora face?
    There is a similar case back when I was in japan, in year 2006.

  10. Adek says:

    This film is breaking my heart, yes “how could you”, i can not watch any further, i can’t help it, they were so wonderful and sweet children, if i were there i would adopt them, oh my god…

  11. Faiza says:

    Im not sure if i could watch the movie after reading the articles/review. I sure hope the movie doesnt hv an emotional negative impact on any of the actors/actresses.. especially the children…

  12. IRM ANNA says:

    I cry everynight and havent stopped. Everynight i pray for the kids. I pray that they did not feel pain before their death. I pray that somehow God gave them happy moments while they were still alive and finally took them under His arms when the kids finally couldnt contain their emotions for longing for their mom. I know God worked His magic and compassion in this kids’ case just like any other cases when it comes to innocent young kids. When u wish u could turn back time, then realize they’re even happier now in heaven and I’m pretty sure God gives them their mother figure to play with them and to love them. They’re in a much much better place now. Amen.

  13. Brige says:

    This movie is brilliant! Despite all the tragic scenes, the real issue here is well portrayed and it simply shows that anyone could be that ‘mama’ under certain circumstances

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