Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini

Like Father, Like Son

Like Father, Like Son
Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Keita Ninomiya, Lily Frank and Yoko Maki

Rated: No rating 
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: January 17, 2014 Released by: IFC Films

A very unhurried, rather subdued, yet watchable Japanese drama engages its themes which include nurturing and redemption with patience and affection. It's interesting to see what someone like Steven Spielberg could do for a more atmospheric, tweaked U.S. remake as his DreamWorks has optioned its rights.

With the same title as the uninspired Dudley Moore/Kirk Cameron 1987 comedy, Like Father, Like Son (fully subtitled) has the more serious matter of babies given to wrong parents with class issues more at the forefront (than the similar premise of the provocative The Other Son from Lorraine Levy filled with political and cultural tensions).

The sensitively drawn tale by helmer Hirokazu Kore-eda (known for an affecting oeuvre) has a relevant interpretative quality as parental advisory that (for some) doesn't extend as deep an emotional impact as intended. A driven architect Ryota (Masaharu Fukuyama) and his wife Midori (Machiko Ono) have brought up an only child, now six-year-old, pressed into learning the piano Keita (Keita Ninomiya) who's actually the "blood" of suburban appliance store proprietors childlike, playful Yudai (Lily Frank) and Yukari (Yoko Maki). Yudai and Yukari have the successful architect's child, young Ryusei (Hwang Sho-gen) with two siblings.

The storytelling may be wrapped up in the logistics of the hospital blunder for a while but in Kore-eda's following of two families there's a connection to Japanese traditions which includes a prevailing distaff subservience, though Midori doesn't favor what her husband desires. The upper-class cold, snobbish sort knew something was up about his part in Keita knowing how to fly a kite during a school interview.

Any melodrama flourishes is damped down when the "change" occurs for both couples as the actors, old and young, have a particular ingratiating aspect about themselves. Keita will interact nicely with his real siblings and Ryusei will eventually warm up to an increasingly less abrasive Ryota whose boss stresses the need to give less to his profession than his loved ones. Fukuyama really excels in a naturalistic arc toward a more casual, realistic outlook, one where he can provide the kind of support and enabler even to one without the same genetic traits.

Like Father, Like Son (which won the Jury Prize at last year's Cannes Film Festival) can be too embroiled in its own capriciousness around "real time" that isn't easy to endure and could cause some inhibition and irksomeness that's like the often hard to accommodate architect. Any displeasure more often than not seems to be countered by a genuine heartfelt connection to family and how it values the responsibility and importance of being a father.

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