Comrade Ryan’s review published on Letterboxd:
Not to be confused with:
This movie had potential to be great, Oscar worthy in fact. However, it was let down by it's lack of character development, relying on general villainy to carry it's impact. No one changes throughout the film, maintaining the same emotional standpoints from start to finish. Though this works for the mother's character (especially when it comes to her abusive ex partner), Shuhei should've had some internal change. I'm not specifically saying that he should've stood up to her, I just wanted more from his arch and watch him develop into a better man. But as said previously, nothing changes.
Though I wasn't a huge fan of certain sections of the story, I really enjoyed following Shuhei's character. The slow burn of it all was quite entertaining, mainly from how brilliant the lead actors are, especially the child actors. The camera work too was fantastic, although the dark scenes were a bit too grainy for my liking. You could argue that it brings an almost cheap charm to the film, like a student filmed it in their spare time, but it was a bit too distracting.
Overall, the film isn't bad at all, just missed out on getting a home run.