Movie Review - Like Father, Like Son

Masaharu Fukuyama (left) in "Like Father, Like Son"
Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda has written and directed a beautiful film on the nature of parenting and the value of wealth and status not being valuable at all when it comes to bringing up a child.

The premise is straight out a TV sitcom or soap opera twist. Two couples living in Japan are told that their 6-year-old sons were switched at the hospital, shortly after being born. The movie follows the two couples having to swap children. Each has to deal with wanting their biological child who is a stranger but also not wanting to lose the child they've raised for half a decade.

There are no histrionics. There are no huge dramatic moments that are the over-the-top. It's all honestly and realistically handled. The performances do enough to sell the heartbreak and anxiety, more in wordless stares. Koreeda doesn't bog his actors down with a lot of dialogue.

Masaharu Fukuyama stars as Ryota Nonomiya. Machiko Ono co-stars as Ryota's wife, Midori Nonomiya. Ryota and Midori have a son who is celebrating his sixth birthday. Their son is named Keita, played by Keita Ninomiya. Ryota is an a businessman who makes quite a living. He's about to put his son in a private school. They prep him and even push him to play piano, while providing with a wealth of things.

Keita, however, is not their biological son. Their biological son is Ryusei, played by Shôgen Hwang. Ryusei was raised by Yudai and Yukari Saiki. The Saiki family is not as wealthy. They live above an old shop. They don't buy their son or their other kids a lot of material things. Once they meet, Yudari and Yukari challenge Ryota's parenting tactics.

This upsets Ryota and his instinct is to fight the Saiki family in any way he can. It doesn't really start to affect Ryota until it starts to affect Ryusei. The film doesn't spend as much time in the Saiki family as the Nonomiya family, so it's the Nonomiya couple's emotional arc we follow, but Koreeda definitely makes us feel the effect on the two boys.

Yet, there is a pathway that Koreeda carves that Fukuyama takes. Early in the film Koreeda has a shot of Fukuyama and Ninomiya's hands together on piano keys. They move in tandem as if they were hands of the same body instead of two. After that, a clear distinction is made between Fukuyama's Ryota and his biological son Ryusei.

Ryota is very serious, uptight and quite adult. His non-biological son Keita is very much the same, whereas Ryusei is the opposite. It's obvious how much Ryota has molded Keita, but, by the end, it's Ryota who gets molded in ways by Ryusei.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but for mature audiences.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 1 min.
Available on Netflix Streaming.


Popular Posts