Some films hit you in unexpected ways. Sometimes you watch a film, and it’s the unexpected aspect of it, that moment that takes you by surprise, that you walk away with and carry with you and hold tightly, so tightly that it becomes a part of you. While watching ‘Like Father, Like Son’, I found myself taking it in, deep.
I’m partial to heartbreaking family dramas. I’ve said this many times. I like films that feature families in situations that cause conflict or conundrums of emotions and wind up leaving me a sobbing mess. I feel like I need that, because it is in those moments where we see the darker aspects of our own lives, beings, thoughts, desires and we can better ourselves. I know that many people seek out films as a form of escape, but I steadily look for films that feature parts of me, that explain parts of me.
I just want to say that if anything happened to my wife and I like that of which happens to the characters in this film, there would be bodies.
‘Like Father, Like Son’ tells the tale of two families caught in the wake of a dire realization; their sons, who they have nurtured and loved for years, were switched at birth. The weight of this realization is enough to cause any warm blooded human to basically lose it. I mean, the very idea, right now, that one of my three LOVED children is actually not mine, and that a child that I made but have not been able to actually father is living in another family, with people that I do not know…I think I may need more anxiety medication just thinking about this. It’s not a subject that any parent ever wants to find themselves in, but here we see how this realization affects these four parents in different ways. We are mostly focusing on Ryota (go figure, the man gets the bulk of the character development) as he tries to think everything out clinically and logically. He’s a very hard working businessman who has spent minimal time with the boy he has at home, and so for him the decision feels almost simple; give me my blood son. His wife, Midori, reacts much differently. She has bonded with their child and so to her, it is not blood but the emotional connection that creates a family. Still, Ryota continues to dwell on the matters from a purely selfish standpoint, even offering (as if it were a kind gesture), to take both boys, since the other family already have two children of their own. As the film progresses, Ryota’s backstory is unveiled, his family life is broached, his emotional reservations dissected, his coldness melted and his final conversation with the boy he once believed was his son is just heartbreaking.
TORE ME APART.
Hirokazu Koreeda is very delicate with the direction of this film, never pushing any agenda or political or even social viewpoint, but allowing Ryota’s story to evolve naturally and compassionately, flaws exposed and yet his humanity is so richly obvious. The cast is also exceptional, with Masaharu Fukuyama delivering a stunning portrait of a man conflicted between his heart and his head. It’s a beautifully sincere and evolving performance, and the scene with the camera, on the couch, the realization that this boy LOVES you…MY GOD! Machiko Ono is also remarkable as his wife, caught in the wake of his careless self-regard. Yoko Maki and Riri Furanki have limited screen time, as the other couple, but they make so much of what they are given.
The scene by the lake, the picture, the ‘moment’…I’ll never forget that.
‘Like Father, Like Son’ is a tender look at what it means to be a family, what it means to be a father. As Ryota tackles this heavy subject, his viewpoint and intentions change as he dissects his own stance as a father. A man who was closed off to his child’s world, consumed by his own agenda and the outward appearance of a happy and well-off family took over what should have been the most important aspects of his life, but as the film progresses and Ryota learns what it means to be a father, all the pieces fall into place in a natural and heart-soaring climax.
I give this an easy A, and A that could, upon reflection, earn a +.