“Confessions” (Tetsuya Nakashima, 2010) offers a non-linear narration of the core story of a mother’s revenge for her daughter’s murder, a toddler murdered by the mother’s own students. The film raises concern on the Japanese juvenile law and media sensation at first. Soon, however, it changes the course and explores the psychological motivations of the murder. The film is a series of confessions having multiple points of departure. A convoluted plot like this runs the risk of leading the viewers astray, so we have tried to break down some key details of the film.

Confessions (2010) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:

An intertitle indicates that it is the end-of-term ceremony for Year One Class B. Yuko Moriguchi tries to initiate a conversation with a class where the nuisance is open and uncurbed. Teaching in such an environment is bound to grate on the composure of any teacher, but Yuko keeps a calm demeanor. Perhaps more than calmness, it is her coldness that gets abundantly noticed. She starts talking about Masayoshi Sakuramiya, a teacher who continues to teach dedicatedly despite having only countable days at his disposal to live.

Yuko tells her students that she would never be able to trust her students completely. She narrates the story of a young male teacher who was threatened and lured into a trap by a girl. After the incident, Yuko explains that if a student raises an issue, now it’s the norm for a same-gender teacher to respond. The student’s self-absorption is echoed through their superficial proclamations of death, Yuko believes – whether it is in the case of the young girl who emotionally blackmailed her teacher by using death as an instrument or Yuko’s student who sent her late-night emails stating her wish to die. Before parting ways, Yuko begins her final lesson so that the students think twice before casually broaching death again.

Yuno, now a single mother, had intended to marry a teacher whom she admired. But before they could be married, Yuko became pregnant. Yuko’s world came crashing down when her partner was diagnosed with HIV. Eventually, she gave birth to a girl. However, she decided not to marry as that would bring lifelong discrimination to her daughter. After her sabbatical due to pregnancy, Yuko resumed working when Manami, her daughter, turned one.

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At one point, Yuko entrusted Manami to one Ms. Takenaka. Yuko remembers Manami’s fondness for one particular cartoon character, Cotton Bunny. Yuko got Manami all the Cotton Bunny merchandise. On one occasion, Manami was really after a Cotton Bunny purse, the last thing she ever demanded from Yuko, as, unbeknownst to Yuko, Manami would soon be found dead after that. The students are left stunned when Yuko says the killers are among them.

In a grimly sardonic tone, Yuko continues and says that what gives young people impunity is the juvenile law. Under Article 41 of the penal code, those under fourteen are not liable for their crime. In conjunction with this, she narrates the story of a thirteen-year-old girl who killed her family as part of a holy rite, widely known and circulated by the press as ‘The Lunacy Incident.’ The girl was declared rehabilitated after her simple act of writing an apology. However, the person who received the harsh punishment was the teacher from whom she procured details of specific medicines with which she spiked her family’s food.

Witnessing the students’ sudden surge in interest, perhaps due to the sensational details of the story, Yuko clears the air and says that the killers would not be disclosed but rather referred to as ‘Student A’ and ‘Student B.’ She finally discloses the identity of Manami’s father– he was Masayoshi Sakuramiya. Yuko reveals that when she went back to Takenaka’s house, the latter handed her a box full of things that belonged to Manami. In the box, Yuko found one item that, despite not belonging to Manami, was closely associated with her. It was the Cotton Bunny purse. Yuko realizes that since the pool in which Manami had drowned is adjacent to Takenaka’s house, it could be that a student had thrown the purse there. If this is indeed true, Yuko deduces that Manami was not alone when she drowned.

Who is ‘Student A’?

Confessions (2010) Movie Ending Explained
A still from “Confessions” (2010)

Yuko describes ‘Student A’ as a seemingly perfect student with perfect grades. However, the swirl of rumors and speculations pertaining to his nature reached Yuko from time to time. A student told Yuko about a horrifying invention of Student A, an execution machine. Student A had been testing the machine on animals since junior high and kept a record of it on his blog.

One day, Student A showed up in Yuko’s office and brought with him a scrap of what was to become his new invention, an Anti-Theft Wallet. The wallet, when opened without permission, is devised to send electric shocks. Student A took his invention to the science fair after forcing Yuko to sign a clearance for the device, where he won the first prize. The details are so particular that despite Yuko’s declaration of not naming the suspect, the students ascertain that it is Shuya Watanabe.

Yuko mentions that she did approach Shuya after Manami’s death. The flashback shows Shuya being so affected by Yuko’s confrontation that he runs toward the window to jump out of the building, leaving Yuko stunned. However, he stops, simply breaks out into a grin, and says “Just kidding”. Yuko deduces that his motive for killing was to simply get noticed by the world as a begetter of the most ingenious inventions.

When his achievement in the science fair did indeed get published, it was the Lunacy girl who killed his chances of getting widely known and revered. Livid from the spotlight hogging of the sensational incident, Shuya surmises that in order to have the world notice his brilliance, murder, and mayhem might be the most appealing choice.

Who is ‘Student B’?

Student B was not particularly good in academics. Yuzu describes him as lazy. He sure did worry about his grades but did nothing to recover. He was required to clean the swimming pool side once a week as a punishment for violating the rule against juniors going to the arcade. His mother never believed that her son could be a part of the plan. Yuko believes that Student A approached Student B with the offer to work as an aid. It was, in fact, Student B who, from a place of personal vendetta, proposed that A’s invention be used on Yuko.

Later, the two decide to torture Manami with it. B was aware that Manami fed Takenaka’s dog while cleaning the pool. He was also aware of Manami’s desire to have the Cotton Bunny pouch. The two make an Anti-Theft purse but make it look like a regular Cotton Bunny purse. Manami falls after unzipping the purse. Realizing the extent of what they had done and believing that Manami was dead, B attempts to hide the shreds of evidence immediately. He throws the purse over the fence, which reaches Takenaka’s house.

To divert suspicion, he throws Manami’s body into the pool to make it look like an accident caused by drowning. Yuko reveals that the Anti-Theft wallet, being so mild, is not capable in itself of stopping a four-year-old’s heart. The true cause of her death was drowning after B had thrown her into the water. Student B is Naoki Shimomura. Yuko understands that the police would not help her even if she produced the required evidence.

The police quite simply are not equipped by the juvenile law as the boys would be treated as innocents. Yuko proclaims that at this stage, it becomes the teacher’s duty to reprimand them as they are her students. In order to make them understand the severity of their crime and the value of life in light of their wrongdoing, Yuko confesses to having mixed the HIV-infected blood of Masayoshi Sakuramiya into their milk cartons.

Confession of Mizuki Kitahara: Start of Term ceremony, Year Two Class B

In the aftermath of Yuko’s confession and departure, things seem to slowly pedal back to normal. This part is narrated by Yuko’s student and Class Representative, Mizuki Kitahara. A new teacher joins who is not received well by the students. Naoki stops attending school but Shuya continues with the classes anyway. Mizuki notices that the class has managed to make a fool out of Werther, the new teacher, making him believe in their innocent approval of him. Werther and Mizuki make frequent trips to Naoki’s house who has confined himself. Naoki’s mother, instead of extending sympathy for Yuko and showing concern over her son’s horrid capabilities, keeps blaming Yuko for not paying enough attention to her students’ needs.

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The class bullies Mizuki and forces her to kiss Shuya. Shuya later shows Mizuki the results of his HIV test, which indicates that he has been tested negative. Shuya tells her that even though his life is not that important, he considers Mizuki’s life as precious. A romantic connection ensues between the two. Mizuki confesses to Shuya that she identifies with the Lunacy girl.

Confession of Yuko Shimomura

Yuko Shimomura, Naoki’s mother, recounts the horrors of living with a son who lives with the knowledge that he is carrying HIV. Naoki is derailed by the fear of the virus and refuses to wash himself. Refusing to acknowledge her son’s part in the problem, Yuko Shimomura pins the blame on bad friends for bringing the mishap to his son. Werther’s visit causes Naoki to get agitated as he is highly suspicious that Werther is a spy sent by Moriguchi. Naoki confesses to his mother that Manami was still breathing when he threw her body into the pool. Yuko Shimomura contemplates a murder-suicide of herself and her son. But before she executes the plan, Naoki kills her.

Confession of Shuya Watanabe

Confessions (2010) Movie Ending Explained
Another still from “Confessions” (2010)

A researcher in electrical engineering, Shuya’s mother had high hopes for the academic capabilities of his son. However, she was forced to leave behind her career in research to raise Shuya, a decision that came to derail her mentally. Her mother started abusing Shuya, pinning the blame of her frustration on Shuya’s arrival. Witnessing the horrors she would unleash on her son, Shuya’s father liberated her from marital duties so that she could find her career path again.

Thus, Shuya’s mother left him and never looked back. Thus began the process of his mental and moral degeneration. Shuya prepares the plan of detonating a bomb at the Start of the Term ceremony. The suicide bomb will go off when Shuya will press the dial button. Fearing that the media will distort his statement or misjudge his motives, he leaves his confession on his blog.

In all these years, Shuya has tried to establish contact with his mother multiple times. His achievements did not elicit the assent or even the attention of his mother. Shuya’s first test of his device on Yuko was, in fact, a means to become closer to his mother. Shuya picked Naoki up as his accomplice in the murder precisely because he believed word would spread from him like wildfire.

When Shuya hears Moriguchi’s confession of injecting infected blood into the milk carton, he becomes scared at first. But soon, he becomes overjoyed as this would cause her mother to reconcile with him. He confesses to using Mizuki as a means to kill time. When Mizuki confronts him about his traumas and attachment wounds and mocks him for being overtly reliant on his mother’s attention, Shuya kills her.

Did Yuko really inject the milk cartons with infected blood?

A flashback shows Mizuki meeting Yuko prior to her getting murdered. She blames Werther for what happened to Naoki. Yuko confesses that he took advantage of Werther’s deep devotion towards Sakuramiya and revealed the identity of Manami. While she withheld the more important details of Manami’s death, he followed along with Yuko’s advice and continued visits to Naoki’s house despite protestations. She also made Werther forge a letter to make it appear that Shuya was being bullied. Yuko confesses that she believed and hoped that the bullying would eventually take Shuya’s life. Yuko finally tells Mizuki that her claim of mixing the milk cartons with Sakuramiya’s blood was false. It was Sakuramiya who talked her out of it.

Even if the milk they consumed was infected, the chances of getting the virus were close to nil. And, even if they did get the virus, recovery was not a far-fetched idea like before. Yuko then discloses that it was cancer, and not AIDS alone, that halted Sakuramiya’s life. Before leaving Mizuki tries defending Shuya and uses his loneliness and absent mother as an excuse for his mindset.

Confessions (2010) Movie Ending Explained:

How does Yuko take her revenge?

The next day, at the ceremony, Shuya is disturbed when the bomb does not detonate. Moriguchi calls him and tells him that she has removed the bomb from the school. She tells Shuya that killing him did not seem to be a befitting revenge as he did not value his own life as much. Therefore, his mother becomes the inadvertent sufferer or the receiver of the punishment.

Yuko also looks through one of his lies when he says that he took his inventions to his mother’s university, where he saw his mother but did not meet her. In actual fact, Shuya never got to see her as she was out on her honeymoon with her new husband. It was Yuko who sent him his mother’s details. It was Kitahara who made Yuko’s revenge easier by accidentally revealing his weakness. So, Yuko took the bomb and placed it in his mother’s office.

When Shuya pressed the dial button and fretted over the bomb not going off, the bomb actually went off in his mother’s office. With Shuya being responsible for his mother’s death, Yuko says that her revenge is complete. Before the ending, Yuko comes and tells Shuya that his path to reformation has now started, but then a smile covers her face, and the film cuts to black with her words, “Just kidding.”

Read More: List of 100 Best Movies by Japanese Filmmaker Akira Kurosawa

Trailer:

Confessions (2010) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia, Letterboxd
The Cast of Confessions (2010) Movie: Takako Matsu
Confessions (2010) Movie Genre: Drama, Runtime: 1h 46m

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