Comedian W.C. Fields famously opined, “Never work with children or animals.” The reason: Kids and kitties (or doggies, for that matter) can upstage even the best adult performer.
As Amiko, the preteen protagonist of Yusuke Morii’s eponymous first feature, newcomer Kana Osawa effortlessly dominates any scene she’s in with a fearless, natural presence. Accomplished veterans Arata Iura and Machiko Ono, who play her parents, don’t stand a chance against her. One comparison is Yuya Yagira in his breakout role as an abandoned child in Hirokazu Kore-eda’s 2004 masterpiece, “Nobody Knows.” Osawa and Yagira share the same piercing look, the same sense of being ferally apart from the general run of humanity.
Amiko, however, is still very much a kid when the story begins, in contrast to Yagira’s character, who seemed older than his 12 years. Hitting a stick on a railing or playing with stones on a flight of steps, she seems to be from a more innocent time when children found fun in their own imaginations, not on smartphones.