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Would you choose your natural son, or the son you believed was yours after spending 6 years together? Kore-eda Hirokazu, the globally acclaimed director of "Nobody Knows", "Still Walking" and "I Wish", returns to the big screen with another family - a family thrown into torment after a phone call from the hospital where the son was born... Ryota has earned everything he has by his hard work, and believes nothing can stop him from pursuing his perfect life as a winner. Then one day, he and his wife, Midori, get an unexpected phone call from the hospital. Their 6-year-old son, Keita, is not 'their' son - the hospital gave them the wrong baby. Ryota is forced to make a life-changing decision, to choose between 'nature' and 'nurture.' Seeing Midori's devotion to Keita even after learning his origin, and communicating with the rough yet caring family that has raised his natural son for the last six years, Ryota also starts to question himself: has he really been a 'father' all these years.... Written by
A brilliant, warm story presented in spectacular fashion
Like Father, Like Son tells us the story of a young couple and how their lives get altered when they find out that their son, has been swapped at birth. Hirokazu Koreeda directs and writes of this affectionate tale and does so in an excellent way. The film was released in the stacked year of 2013, and quite frankly, I think it's among the best of the year.
Ryota Nanomiya is a successful architect who, while loves his family, spends too much time at work. One day, his wife, Midori, gets a call from the hospital where Keita, their son, was born. Soon they find out that a six-year old mistake caused their child to be swapped at birth with another. This leads Ryota and Midori to start getting more acquainted with the other family involved in this situation. All the while wondering whether they should keep, or re-swap the children.
The script for Like Father, Like Son was absolutely tremendous. The story itself is brilliant and captivating; you can't help but feel absorbed in the lives of everyone involved. This wouldn't be possible without great characters and that's exactly what we got. Ryota is a wonderful character made even better by the phenomenal performance by Masaharu Fukuyama. He isn't the caricature that you might expect him to be. In fact, I felt he was a rather realistic depiction of a loving father who happens to be a bit of a workaholic. On the other hand, Yudai Saiki, the other father affected by the swap, was so different to Ryota, but just as good of a character. The contrast between the two fathers was one of the most fascinating aspects of the film. It bettered both characters, and gave the film an extra layer.
As I mentioned earlier, Masaharu Fukuyama was incredible as Ryota. The subtleties and nuances in his facial expressions were particularly impressive. Rirî Furankî played Yudai, the more easygoing father. I already touched upon how different their characters are, but the quality of their performances are almost identical. They both raised the film to the next level. The mothers were played by Machiko Ono and Yôko Maki. Their portrayals may not be as critical as those of the two male stars, but they were excellent nonetheless. And lastly, the two kids were played by Shôgen Hwang and Keita Ninomiya. I was a bit surprised by their acting talents as I thought they were just as good as the adult actors. We all know that young actors may not always be the best in terms of acting abilities, but these two talented kids proved that they have some acting chops. They were cute, vulnerable, and even scared when needed to be, and they never missed a beat. Brilliant acting across the board.
On top of doing an outstanding job in the writing department, Hirokazu Koreeda also directed the film in a magnificent fashion. Despite the unfortunate incident the families are dealing with, there's a certain feeling of warmth throughout the film, that works greatly with the family within it. This is achieved, in part thanks to the phenomenal music by Shin Yasui.
Koreeda didn't rush with the story and gave us time to connect with the families, which is pivotal for a film like this. The visuals were also quite remarkable, with Mikiya Takimoto working as cinematographer; The scenes by the lake were beautifully shot and had a very serene vibe to it. Koreeda also opted for more movements from the camera in scenes where, a lot of times in other films, the camera would be static. Little details like that is what distinguishes the directing of the film from others, and gives it that unique aura that is so appealing.
Like Father, Like Son raises a very compelling question on the identity of one's child. Is your child yours because you raised, loved, and nurtured them for years, or because they're your flesh and blood?! At first glance I, and I imagine a few people, will say the former is the correct answer. But by putting myself in Ryota's place, I'd be just as confused and unsure as he was. The film also raises a good point on the different types of parents and parenting techniques. Both Ryota and Yudai love their families dearly. However one decides to work to improve the quality of his family's life in exchange for his time with them, and one lives a relatively lower life, but spends all his time with the ones he loves.
Like Father, Like Son is a film that will connect with the viewer on an emotional level. The story will grip you, while the technical aspects impress you. It's an outstanding film that should be seen by film lovers, especially those who have families and children of their own. An easy recommendation from me.
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