Like Someone in Love
After two previous nominations for Palme d’Or for Ten in 2002 and Certified Copy in 2010, Iranian film director Abbas Kiarostami returns to Cannes Competition with another pseudo-simplistically naturalistic story, this time set in Tokyo, Japan. Judging by the looks of the film, this foreign production does not seem like a result of working out of one’s comfort zone – the story is universal for its interest in social norms and inner motivations of people’s actions, it makes unexpected things interesting, and is mostly set in a driving car, which has by now become Kiarostami’s trademark. However, this is surely not the best of Kiarostami’s work to this date.
The film begins with Akiko (Rin Takanashi), a diligent student by day and an escort by night, getting assigned with a client – a grandfatherly academic Takashi (Tadashi Okuno). When she arrives at his flat, he seems reluctant to engage in conversation, and keeps talking on the phone while Akiko curiously explores. As the night comes, Akiko wants to get the job over with, but Takashi is not interested in sex with her, what he is interested in is never fully revealed.
In the morning, as he gives her a lift to the school where she has an exam, Takashi is spotted by Akiko’s jealous boyfriend, garage mechanic Noriaki (Ryo Kase). Noriaki does not know about Akiko’s night job, but still wants to have a word with Takashi. Akiko had told him earlier it was her grandmother who came to Tokyo; Takashi pretends to be her grandfather, only to save the girl, wound-up in her lies. After Akiko returns from the exam, they all take a ride and have a talk that gives insight into the couple’s relationship.
The film takes its time – that is the strength of Kiarostami’s cinema, but it is cut short with an ending that leaves the viewer wondering what one should make of everything one has just seen. Like Someone in Love feels slower and slower as it progresses, dangerously slipping into meaninglessness and student-sort of screenwriting. We get the feeling that this is the story that could have easily been explored in a short-film format, without losing any depth or room for contemplation.
Kiarostami’s fans will probably find this film enjoyable, but for others, I suggest we wait for his next one.