In Theaters 01.29.2021 or Watch at Home 03.09.2021

True Mothers

Directed by Naomi Kawase
Film Movement
140 Minutes
Drama, Asian
Not Rated

Japan's Official Submission to the Academy Awards

After a long and unsuccessful struggle to get pregnant, Satoko and her husband 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, 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.

Weaving together multiple timelines and genres with a contemplative pacing and keen sense of place, hallmarks of Kawase’s work, TRUE MOTHERS is “is a deeply touching celebration of women who assume duties of love, support and compassion” (Awards Watch).

Director & Cast

  • Director: Naomi Kawase
  • Starring: Hiromi Nagasaku
  • Starring: Arata Iura
  • Starring: Aju Makita
  • Starring: Reo Sato




  • "True Mothers covers an impressive amount of narrative ground, morphing from social issue film to domestic drama, romantic melodrama, violent urban thriller and at last a quiet reflection of cathartic confrontation."
    Nicholas Bell, Ion Cinema
  • "Naomi Kawase's best film in years, TRUE MOTHERS is a deeply touching celebration of women who assume duties of love, support and compassion."
    Mina Takla, AwardsWatch
  • "The latest film from the prolific Japanese director Naomi Kawase is a rewarding drama which weaves together knotted maternal bonds and textured character portraits. An elegant, absorbing piece of storytelling, its universal themes and a tone which conveys empathy without tipping into sentimentality...."
    Wendy Ide, Screen Daily
  • "True Mothers is one of Naomi Kawase's best films to date, a thoughtful drama about the shame associated with unconventional motherhood."
    Alex Heeney, Seventh Row
  • "[T]he 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
  • "The Japanese auteur Naomi Kawase has returned with another of her highly distinctive, tremulously sensitive movies...there is a sustained emotional seriousness in this movie, with committed performances."
    Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
  • "True Mothers is a sensitive, thoughtful exploration of a subject that far too often collapses into melodramatic pastiche."
    Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Alliance of Women Film Journalists
  • "Naomi Kawase's vision is clear-eyed and precise, extracting veritable emotion from each breathtaking landscape shot and poignant performance.... Much like Japan's excellent 2018 submission Shoplifters, True Mothers is a wistful ode to the infinite forms that family can take, a cogent assertion that there is no one-size-fits-all definition of motherhood. "
    MIa Vicino, Willamette Week
  • "True Mothers is a thoughtful, delicate film that approaches a difficult subject matter with beautiful cinematography, realistic and realized characters, and a balanced approach to the story telling that will leave you speechless. Watch it."
    Watch or Pass
  • " “True Mothers” is probably the most mainstream effort yet from Naomi Kawase.... “True Mothers” is sensitive and layered. "
    Ben Kenigsberg, The New York Times
  • "True Mothers (Asa ga Kuru) is a true Naomi Kawase film: a lush visual reworking of parental angst and despair, offset by frequent interludes of communing with that great healer, Mother Nature."
    Deborah Young, The Hollywood Reporter
  • "“True Mothers” depicts a suitably complex tale of motherhood from multiple perspectives, punctuated by masterful dramatic performances and non-linear editing choices that maintain a suspenseful pace that will evoke tears, but leave audiences with a lot to think about, and a lot to discuss."
    Andrew Shearer, Athens Banner-Herald
  • "[A]n enormously life-affirming piece of work — a wryly funny folk tale of innocence and experience."
    Sean Burns, WBUR
  • "Japan’s Naomi Kawase is among the tenderest of filmmakers... and her latest, “True Mothers,” is a fine example of this Cannes-honored director’s sensitivity and lyricism. They’re especially strong assets here, because this story of teen pregnancy, adoption, and belonging adapted from a novel by Mizuki Tsujimura is the kind of material that can easily lend itself to melodrama. In Kawase’s delicate hands, however, it breathes with an everyday poignancy. [H]er trademark interstitial grace notes of nature’s beauty, serve to burnish the deeply felt performances led by Nagasaku and Makita...."
    Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times