This post includes a brief plot description and an explanation about the ending of the 2010 film Confessions / Kokuhaku.
Directed by Tetsuya Nakashima, the 2010 psychological thriller stars Takako Matsu as Yuko Moriguchi. The film is based on a 2008 novel of the same name written by Kanae Minato. Today’s post is solely based on the film adaptation, not the novel. Beware of spoilers.
Confessions tells the story of a mother (Yuko Moriguchi) who is determined to avenge the death of her daughter (Manami). The high school teacher already knows who the perpetrators are, the individuals are two of her students: Shuya Watanabe and Naoki Shimomura.
What Happens in “Confessions”? (Plot Explained)
As part of her plan to seek payback for her daughter’s murder, Yuko injects HIV-infected blood (from her late husband) into the boys’ milk cartons. Then she lets Shuya and Naoki know that she is aware of what they did to her daughter. The “contaminated milk” incident sends the boys into panic mode. Although drinking HIV-infected blood is not a plausible method of transmission, they don’t know that.
Over time, Naoki becomes a social outcast. He spends most of his days at home and refuses to go outside. The idea of drinking “contaminated milk” led Naoki to believe that he now has AIDS. His deteriorating mental health takes a toll on his family, especially his mother. When Naoki’s mother learns that her son killed Manami (Yuko’s daughter), she decides to commit murder-suicide. But before she could lay her hands on Naoki, he kills her first. Shortly after, the police arrives and arrest Naoki.
As the story unravels, Shuya reveals that his mother “abandoned” him while he was still a child. Her rejection led Shuya to devote himself to science. He starts with small inventions, then later progresses to killing and dissecting animals.
Plot Twist: Shuya is not the one who killed Manami, even though he admitted to it. On that fateful day, Shuya decided to test his electric anti-mugger wallet on a passerby (Manami). The electric shock did not kill Manami, she was just unconscious. However, Shuya taunted Naoki to kill Manami. To prove himself, Naoki throws Manami into a pool, in which she drowns to death.
During this period, Shuya becomes acquainted with another fellow classmate, Mizuki Kitahara. Just like Shuya, Mizuki also has a deep fascination with death and murder. Their romance goes sour when Mizuki confronts him about his obsession with his mother. Shuya didn’t like the remarks and kills his girlfriend.
After the incident, Shuya finally mustered up the courage to pay his mother a visit. However, he learns that his mother has moved on and built a whole new life without him. Saddened by this finding, Shuya goes home and builds a bomb to kill all of his classmates at the graduation ceremony. However, Yuko is already one step ahead of him.
The Ending of “Confessions” Explained
The ending of “Confessions” reveals that Yuko found the bomb and placed it at Shuya’s mother’s office. Therefore, when Shuya set the trigger to make the bomb explode, he was actually killing his own mother. As Yuko calls Shuya to inform him of what he did, the teacher begins to slowly walk into the graduation ceremony and tells him that his redemption was about to start, only to taunt him with “a just kidding” comment at the end.
There are two possible interpretations for that haunting final comment of “just kidding”. One, none of it really happened, Yuko was joking about the bomb, and Shuya’s mother is still alive. Two, the “just kidding” comment means no possibility of redemption for Shuya because his actions were just too cruel.
So what is the meaning behind the ending of “Confessions”? Most likely, there will be no redemption for Shuya because he is beyond repair. The law wasn’t going to punish the boy for what he did because Shuya is still a minor. Therefore, Yuko decided to take matters into her own hands and teach him a lesson that he will never forget.
Asian Cinema is where the hidden gems are. When I first watched Confessions (Kokuhaku), it blew my mind, no pun intended. Honestly, Confessions is one of those films that will make you question things. The ending scene might even haunt you for days.
What I liked about Confessions was the storytelling. Kokuhaku is not your typical thriller, the identities of the murderers are revealed almost right away. So what’s the fun? The audience doesn’t know the motive. The whole story is narrated from the perspectives of three people: the grieving mother and the two degenerates who killed her daughter.
After Yuko Moriguchi announces her daughter’s death, things start to get really interesting. This is the starting point of her revenge. From then on, the audience learns that the perpetrators are going to get what they deserve. The real irony is that the teacher didn’t even have to get her hands dirty to get the job done. Both Shuya Watanabe and Naoki Shimomura ended up losing their mothers because of their reckless actions. Call it poetic justice if you want.
Now, let’s talk about the three main characters in this story: Yuko, Shuya and Naoki. First, let’s start with the teacher. Her character evolution is out of this world. Before Manami’s death, Yuko was just a very low-key teacher trying to live a relatively normal life. However, sometimes life plays tricks on you. Shortly after losing her fiancé to HIV, her daughter dies too. Those two events alone are enough to test someone’s mental sanity.
Then there is Naoki. He has no friends, so when he meets Shuya, it was like a match made in heaven. The relationship between the two was more like that of master manipulator and puppet, with Naoki as his loyal follower. Although Naoki threw Manami into the pool, the original idea came from Shuya, who egged him to do it. And Naoki was stupid enough to actually go through with it.
Last but not least, let’s talk about Shuya. He is one of those people who believes being smart is the most important thing in the world. In his little mind, there is him and the creatures beneath him (the rest of the world). Also, the boy has some serious “mommy issues”. Everything he does serves a single purpose: to get his mother’s attention. Apparently, Shuya has become a high achiever ever since his mother “abandoned” him. The boy wants to prove to his mother that he is not a waste of her time.
By the way, “Lunacy Girl” is also a loser. Mizuki Kitahara represents the stereotypical female character that falls for the “bad boy”. Needless to say, as a viewer, I did not feel bad about her death. What happens when you play with fire? Yes, that’s what happened to little Mizuki.
The premise of Confessions did not shock me. However, the motive behind Manami’s murder really pissed me off. Age is not a valid reason to justify cruelty. The two boys should have known better. As I said before, I truly enjoyed Kokuhaku. Some viewers might feel intimidated by its slow pace, but I can guarantee it will be worth it. The film is a real rollercoaster of emotions.