Ryota is a successful workaholic businessman. When he learns that his biological son was switched with another boy after birth, he faces the difficult decision to choose his true son or the boy he and his wife have raised as their own.
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
Entertaining, thought-provoking, and beautifully realized
Everyone has an opinion about what constitutes good parenting. Does it boil down to rules and regulations, pushing a child to excel, letting them just enjoy themselves, or the amount of time you spend with them? These issues are on the table in Hirokazu Koreeda's latest child-centered film, Like Father, Like Son, winner of the Jury Prize at last year's Cannes Film Festival. Ryoto Nonomiya (Masaharu Fukuyama) is a somewhat aloof architect who works long hours at his job, leaving little time for his six-year-old son Keita (Keita Ninomiya). Ryoto and his wife Midori (Machiko Ono) live in a luxury Tokyo apartment that relatives tell them looks like a hotel.
Keita is comfortable and apparently quite happy, enjoying a close and caring relationship with his mother, even though his father is not always around. Ryoto loves Keita, however, and wants the best for him, pushing him to excel in academics and music, but his character is painted in such broad strokes that he doesn't come across as truly caring. The family's comfortable world is turned upside down, however, when the Nonomiya's receive a phone call from the hospital telling them that Keita is in fact not their biological son, that testing has revealed that two boys were switched at birth, presumably by accident.
Both curious and anxious, Ryoto and Midori make plans to visit their biological son and here Koreeda draws a sharp contrast between the two families. Yudai (Lily Franky), a good-natured, playful storekeeper and his wife Yukari (Yoko Maki), are working class people, living in the rear of a general goods store with their three children, a boy named Ryusei (Shogen Hwang), and his younger brother and sister. Although tongue in cheek, Yudai tells his wife that his philosophy of life is "I always say, put off to tomorrow, what ever you can." When the mistake of the hospital is realized, the shocked families must decide how (and if) they are going to exchange sons.
The upper class Ryoto says that it "now makes sense" why his son Keita is not talented and ambitious like himself, a statement that is very hurtful to Midori. His desire is to continue the bloodline, urged also by his own father who suggests that he should make every effort to raise both boys. While this may sound good in theory, when Ryoto raises the possibility with Yudai and Yukari, the reaction is one of deep insult and Ryoto has to go to Plan B. While awaiting a financial settlement from the hospital, the two families agree to let the boys come for a visit to gradually get to know their real parents, at first for one day, then later on the weekends.
Awkwardly, Ryoto tells Ryu to call them father and mother, reserving daddy and mommy for Yudai and Yukari, the only parents he has truly known. Friction begins to develop between the parents when Yudai let's Ryoto know that he should spend more time with his son. Though both children adjust, Ryu expresses a longing to return to daddy and mommy. Ryoto wants the exchange of children to work out but Midori misses Keita and reacts with anger when she perceives that her husband blames her for what has happened. The exchange of the boys becomes a catalyst for Ryoto to look at his life and see what has been missing in his approach to parenting and he has the courage to make changes.
Like Father, Like Son is a riveting experience that once again demonstrates that the performances Koreeda can elicit from children are little short of amazing. Like Father, Like Son can meander, has some formulaic aspects, and does not have the weight of some of his earlier films, yet it is an entertaining, thought-provoking, and beautifully realized two hours at the movies.
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