Starting like a kidpic but slowly developing layers of depth and resonance, “Don’t Look Back” is further proof of an interesting new talent in writer-director Akihiko Shiota. This one is too modest to go farther than festivals, but makes an interesting appendage to his first feature, “Moonlight Whispers” (reviewed on page 58), also on show in Locarno.
Ten-year-old friends Akira and Koichi, kids in a featureless Tokyo suburb, seem to have an average childhood — larking around in school, chased by gangs of elders and teased by girls for being “stupid.” Then they start to drift apart: Akira befriends Nomura, who has a frightening collection of war toys (and movie posters including “The Longest Day”) and lives alone with his strung-up, divorced mother; and Koichi takes up with a thuglet at school. As a pattern of simple betrayals emerges, pic develops some moving moments, especially around the lonely, slightly nerdy Nomura. As in “Whispers,” Shiota shows youngsters engaging in patterns of behavior way beyond their ages and shoots in a careful, economic style whose ellipses the audience can fill in through various visual clues.