Like Father, Like SonCultureCinemaMovie reviews
What makes a family: blood or love? This is the question asked by Japanese film-maker Hirokazu Koreeda in his latest film Like Father, Like Son. For many, the simple answer might be “love” – but Koreeda’s tale is far from simple.
Ryota Nonomiya (Masaharu Fukuyama, Suspect X) is the stern patriarch of a beautiful family of three, but to his frustration his young son Keita (Keita Nonomiya, The King and I) shows little of his drive or determination, instead taking after his wife’s gentle nature. So when the hospital that delivered their son reveals the devastating news that Keita was switched at birth, Ryota finds himself questioning his role as a father.
Already an acclaimed writer and director, Koreeda exceeds his reputation with this compelling exploration of love and family. These are themes examined not just from the perspective of the Nonomiya family, but from their peers, their in-laws and the Saiki family, who raised Ryota’s biological son. This is an emotional, character-driven tale most involved with the connection between the wronged families – a relationship fraught with anguish and envy. The wholly rounded characters bring a very authentic sense of pain to the delicate subject matter, made even more affecting by a stellar cast.
As a film primarily concerned with fatherhood, the cast of Like Father, Like Son are perhaps most notable for their two male leads. Fukuyama is suitably cold, yet irresistibly vulnerable as the workaholic father Ryota. In perfect contrast, Lily Franky (All Around Us) offers light comic relief as Yudai Saiki, the sage fool and Keita’s natural father. In supporting roles, Machiko Ono (The Mourning Forest) is subtly outstanding as Ryota’s tormented wife Midori, while Keita Nonomiya is achingly sweet as their confused five-year-old son.
When dealt with the age-old question of nature versus nurture, Hirokazu Koreeda offers no conventional answers. Like Father, Like Son is a beautifully melancholy study of familial love. While often painful, it is consistently touching – a modest masterpiece guaranteed to move audiences worldwide.
Like Father, Like Son (Soshite Chichi Ni Naru) is released nationwide on 18th October 2013.
Watch the trailer for Like Father, Like Son (Soshite Chichi Ni Naru) here: