Saturday, January 24, 2015

Like Father, Like Son Review

Typically when I am writing rave reviews, I mention the unique and fresh premise or the stylish cinematography, and yet here we have Like Father, Like Son, a Japanese drama about a switched at birth scenario, a premise that has been featured in previous films and a current television series. Absolutely nothing about the aesthetic of this film is flashy or seemingly inventive. At first glance, this is a work that feels ordinary, familiar, nothing that will blow your mind or dazzle your technical sensitivities.

So is the end result an ordinary, familiar, nothing with will blow your mind film? Not even close. Like Father, Like Son is one of the best movies of 2014.

I am painfully unfamiliar with the work of esteemed Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda, as the closest I have come to seeing one of his movies prior to this was when I checked a copy of After Life out of the library and then the disc didn't function. I have heard so much praise heaved in his direction and I finally got to experience why this is, and if Like Father, Like Son is an indication of his overall filmography, I understand it all now. So much nuance, so much heartbreak, so much feeling seeps out of this picture, but the brilliance of it is that it doesn't have to try very hard to achieve its excellence. Everything about this feels natural and real, and as a result I believed in the story and these characters.

The story of Like Father, Like Son revolves around the Nonomiya family, and the lead role is the father Ryota, a man driven by his financial success in life rather than spending time with his wife and young son. The normalcy of their routine of life goes off the rails when they find out one day that the son they have loved and raised for six years is not actually their own, that the hospital switched out their child with another newborn boy. When they meet up with the other family involved in the swap, complex emotions rattle these parents to their core and they are forced to ask themselves, continue raising the child that owns their hearts but doesn't share their blood? Or correct the original mistake and begin anew with the child they were always supposed to spend their lives with?

For me the answer is simple, as I could never say goodbye to the beautiful little girl I have shared so many memories with over the past seven plus years regardless of whether she turned out to be literally my own or not, and yet despite this I still found a way to be conflicted while watching this film. For me, family and love stretch far beyond anything a blood test could prove, but at the same time I can't wrap my mind around how surreal it would be to see the child you actually created being raised by someone else.

Koreeda had such a focused hand when crafting this movie, a picture that on paper is screaming to be melodramatic yet it never is, not for a moment. This is also a credit to the perfect performances throughout, as we can see the pain and love they feel in them even during silent moments, as their eyes and mannerisms do plenty of talking. Like Father, Like Son is quite simply a beautiful, heart felt film, and if you have Netflix streaming I suggest you look it up and give it a spin. You will not regret it.


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