|Masaharu Fukuyama as Ryota Nonomiya (Father) and Keita Nonomiya as Keita Ninomiya (Son) in Hirozaku Kore-Eda’s LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON. © 2013 FUJI TELEVISION NETWORK, INC./AMUSE INC./GAGA CORPORATION. All rights reserved. A Sundance Selects Release.|
(SOSHITE CHICHI NI NARU)
2013, 120 minutes
Review by Joshua Handler
Hirokazu Kore-eda's sensitive, humane, and thought-provoking Cannes Jury Prize-winner Like Father, Like Son is a film that I can't say much (or anything) bad about. The film tells the story of the Nonomiyas and what happens when they find out that their son isn't really their biological son, but rather the son of another couple, the Saikis. The Saikis have the Nonomiyas' biological son, since it is revealed that their sons were swapped in the hospital.
The film explores what it means to be a family and the relationship between a parent and child. Do people have to be blood-related to have that kind of relationship or can that relationship exist without a blood relationship? Koreeda takes his time with his exploration, but fills every minute of the film with a plot point or small details that add to the characters.
The Nonomiyas are wealthy but the Saikis are not. This contrast between lifestyles shows class tension in Japan. The Nonomiyas look down on the Saikis. The Saikis are wonderful parents, but their looser country-style lifestyle proves to be a sticking point with Ryota Nonomiya, a wealthy businessman from the city. Many other directors would have overplayed these tensions, but Kore-eda's subtlety keeps everything in check and grounded in realism. He lets actions and images speak, not the dialogue. The film doesn't always emotionally connect, but when it does, it is very touching.
Kore-eda is as astonishing a craftsman as he is a storyteller. The film is beautifully paced and every shot has meaning. There are so many films released that have poorly-framed shots with little to no attention paid to what they mean. Kore-eda fills every image with subtext that makes the viewing experience that much richer.
And his actors are universally excellent. Masaharu Fukuyama and Machiko Ono play the Nonomiyas, and Yôko Maki and Rirî Furankî play the Saikis. Each actor, children included, is so convincing and develops their character so fully that I frequently had to remind myself that I was watching a movie. These actors bring Kore-eda's vision to life with astounding life and heart.
Overall, Like Father, Like Son is a wonderful film that should resonate with all parents. It is a beautifully-constructed film that should leave only the hardest-hearted untouched and is one that I enjoyed every minute of. Like Father is a thought-provoking family drama and social commentary rolled into one tight package that I could easily watch over again. This is a highly recommended piece of cinema that just about everyone will enjoy.