From left: Arata Iura, Aju Makita and Hiromi Nagasaku in a scene from Naomi Kawase’s “True Mothers.” (Kino Films + Film Movement)

A young adoptive family’s life is shaken by the surprising arrival of the birth mother in director Naomi Kawase’s emotionally charged drama, “True Mothers” — Japan’s Oscar entry for best international film — which premieres via Virtual Cinema on Friday, Jan. 29.

After a long and unsuccessful struggle to get pregnant, Satoko (Hiromi Nagasaku) and her husband Kiyokazu (Arata Iura) decide to adopt a child. Over the next six years, the middle-class couple and their young son, Asato, settle into a comfortable, albeit routine, life.

The family’s orderly existence is shattered by the arrival of Hikari (Aju Makita), a young woman claiming to be Asato’s biological mother, demanding his return. As tensions mount, Satoko grows more and more emboldened to defend her family and decides to confront Hikari directly.

“True Mothers” is a universally acclaimed official selection at Cannes and the Toronto International Film Festival, nominated for a Golden Seashell and Gold Hugo at the San Sebastian and Chicago International Film Festivals, respectively. Weaving together multiple timelines and genres with a contemplative pacing and keen sense of place, hallmarks of Kawase’s work, it “is a deeply touching celebration of women who assume duties of love, support and compassion” (Awards Watch).

“An elegant, absorbing piece of storytelling, its universal themes and a tone which conveys empathy without tipping into sentimentality.” — Wendy Ide, Screen Daily

“One of Naomi Kawase’s best films to date, a thoughtful drama about the shame associated with unconventional motherhood.” — Alex Heeney, Seventh Row

“The film shimmers with beauty and sadness … ‘True Mothers’ wows in the end with an emotional banger of an ending that’s a truly devastating convergence of all the film’s threads. Kawase ties everything together beautifully.” — Ryan Lattanzio, IndieWire

“True Mothers” represents the first time that talented Caméra d’Or-winning director Kawase has represented her country on the Oscar stage and only the third time from 67 submissions that Japan has been represented by a woman, after Yong-hi Yang for “Our Homeland” in 2013 and Mipo O for “The Light Only Shines There” in 2015.

Co-written by Kawase and Izumi Takahashi, the film also features Reo Sato, Hiroko Nakajima, Tetsu Hirahara, Ren Komai, and Taketo Tanaka. Produced by Yumiko Takebe; cinematography by Kawase, Naoki Sakakibara and Yûta Tsukinaga.

Virtual Cinema is video-on-demand streaming brought to you by Film Movement in partnership with local independent movie theaters, which allows you to stream first-run movies and revivals of classic films at home on your TV or on your mobile device prior to their availability on any other digital platform. The proceeds from your streaming rental is shared between Film Movement and the presenting art house movie theater of your choice, so all ticket purchases help support independent cinema.

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