In Like father, like son we meet workaholic architect Nonomiya Ryota, wife Midori and their six-year-old son Keita. Japanese director Kore-eda Hirokazu shows us the daily life of the family in a minimalistic, slow manner. That suits me fine. I like Japanese cinema. One day the couple get the revelation that Keita is not their son. He was switched at birth in the hospital. Their biological son is Ryusei and his parents are Yudai and Yukari Saiki. The two fathers could not be more different. Ryota is a wealthy architect, a cold and distant man who spend too much time at work to really know his son. Yudai Saiki is completely involved with his three children, not afraid to get down on the ground to play and even bathes with them. The Saikis run an electrical store in the poor area of town. Ryota is a snob who looks down on the Saikis with disdain. Not a very nice person at first. Both families have to decide what they will do. First they sue the hospital. Yudai wants money and Ryota wants to find out what went wrong. Also Ryota claims to have always known Keita was not his. So he wants his ‘real’ son to live with them. This is the usual screenplay conventions: a person with unflinching character traits as the film begins, has come around at the end. Like father, like son is a second-rate tear-jerker dressed as an art film. Everything in it is geared toward making you weep. With those two cute boys you can’t resist. And they are very good actors too. Yukari Keita with those question mark wide eyes, especially at the end when Keita is angry with Ryota. Ryusei Saikis’s big scenes come at the end of the film but Shogen Wang who plays him is equally impressive. The film has one of the most manipulative screenplay I’ve ever seen, and yet what we see is a minimalist film. Keita plays the piano, so of course the score is solo piano and includes classical piano pieces. The actors whisper every word as if it was sacred. The camera is mostly static because you would not want to rush things. Aesthetically the film is close to perfection thanks to Mikiya Takimoto’s brilliant cinematography. The dichotomy between the popular and the artsy is what I love about Japanese films. I would not want it any other way.
Like father, like son (Soshite chichi ni naru)