Master of Japanese horror Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s eerie, intense psychological thriller PENANCE (Shokuzai) unfolds on a sleepy small town playground, when a mysterious stranger approaches a group of young friends, then kidnaps and brutally murders one of the girls. Wracked with grief, the victim’s unhinged mother Asako (Kyoko Koizumi) demands that the shaken survivors identify the killer or face a penance of her choosing. Growing up in the shadow of this tragic debt, each of the four girls cultivates a warped survival mechanism – avoidance, desperation, fear, obsession. A disturbing, sensitively helmed chronicle of post-traumatic stress from a female perspective, PENANCE offers Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s trademark creepy twists as well as a subtle commentary on Japanese society and gender expectations. This gripping long-form serial drama highlights a new facet of renowned auteur Kurosawa (PULSE, CURE, CHARISMA) and features absorbing performances from a stellar line-up of award-winning, up-and-coming young actresses.
A murder mystery of a deliciously twisted sort. –Manhola Dargis, The New York Times