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Monday 13 January 2014

Like Father Like Son, Film (2013) by Hirokazu Koreeda, 9* out of 10

Ryota Nonomiya (Masaharu Fukuyama) is an ambitious and fast rising executive in the architecture firm he works for. His wife Midori (Machiko Ono) has given up her career to look after their six-year-old son Keita (Keita Nonomiya). Ryota takes his role as provider seriously and his family lives very comfortably from the fruits of his hard work. He loves his son and wants to see him succeed in life. So the family applies to an elite private school and Keita has to take piano lessons although he does not excel as a musician. Ryota is concerned that Keita is not competitive enough. While Midori supports him loyally in his ambitions for Keita she also makes sure that Keita can also have some fun. The boy adores both his parents and particular loves it when he gets his fathers approval. 

The family is thrown into crisis when the provincial hospital where Keita was born informs Ryota and Midori that there may have been exchange of new-borns and Keita might not be their biological child.  As head of the family and in competent management mode Ryota takes the lead in dealing with the situation. If indeed there has been an exchange, his and Midori’s biological has grown up in a provincial family, the Saikis. The father Yudai (Riri Furaki) is a shopkeeper, older and not at all ambitious. He likes to spend any free minute playing with his three children, who delight in his presence and his ability to repair their broken toys. Ryota starts out with wanting to address this issue like one of the challenging management problem he is so successful at handling at work; but the decisions he has to make not only have serious consequences on others but also challenge his own life and world-view. Will he be able to cope with putting himself in question?

Like Father Like Son is a powerful and uplifting tale about relationships between fathers and children and beyond that human relationships within and between families from different social backgrounds. The interplay between adults and children and among the children themselves is finely observed. While we might expect Japanese culture and context to be very different from ours, the issues and feelings that this film so skilfully addresses are universal. Like Father Like Son captures our imagination and emotions. The credibility of Ryota’s development during the period of the events recounted depends on the performances of the other characters both adult and children. They shine with excellent performances.

Like Father Like Son deserves the prizes it has been awarded at the Cannes, London and other festivals; a delight.

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