Filled with pathos, 24 Eyes chronicles an elementary school teacher nicknamed “Miss Pebble” who teaches on a remote island from just before till just after WWII. “Miss Pebble” makes waves as she rides a bicycle to school. Heavens! The villagers have never seen a woman on a bike! To make matters worse, this teacher wears Western clothes. Lots of gossip surrounds this threat to a tradition bound village that doesn’t see many strangers. Despite all the obstacles and troubles, Miss Pebble stays the course giving the children all her best and forgiving them when their prank causes her to break her leg.
“Miss Pebble” is kind-hearted and sticks up for doing the right thing when the political climate is charged with suspicions and accusations, when a child’s essay may be considered “Communist” and teachers are suspended for political ideology. Many of her students are from poor families and face great hardships that break Miss Pebble’s heart time after time, culminating in seeing her students go off to a war she doesn’t believe in, but can’t protest.
We see the children grow from first graders to young adults. To make the film as authentic as possible Kinoshita, the director, cast siblings who were about 6 years apart. Thus the characters look as if they really have aged in a very natural way.
Twenty-four Eyes shows how the Japanese value close ties with teachers, how gossip is common and hurtful in a village, and how people looked back on the war.
While this is definitely a “three hanky” tear-jerker, there’s a beauty in Miss Pebble’s perseverance and kindness. She never grows bitter despite experiencing so many difficulties.
The black and white photography was exquisite and the actress playing the teacher was so sincere and open. It’s a beautiful window into the heart of Japan.