Japanese Movies

 

Like Father, Like Son (そして父になる, Soshite Chichi ni Naru)

Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda

 

'Like Father, Like Son' tells the story of two couples whose sons were switched at birth. Corporate high-flyer Ryota Nonomiya (Masaharu Fukuyama) is an absent and demanding father, and wife Midori (Machiko Ono) is a devoted mother to their 6-year old son Keita. Their lives are turned upside-down by a hospital revelation that the boy they have been raising is not their own.

They are soon introduced to average Joe and electrical shop owner Yudai Saiki (Lily Franky) and his wife Yukari (Yoko Maki) who have been raising the Nonomiya’s biological son, named Ryusei, along with their two other children. Yudai proves to be an easy-going, fun and playful father, in stark contrast to stern Ryota. The couples are advised to switch back before the boys start elementary school in just six months’ time, and a heartbreaking decision fast approaches.

This is a thought-provoking and quietly affecting film by director Hirokazu Kore-eda. The 'switched at birth' storyline (a staple of daytime soaps) is used here to great effect to explore deeper themes of fatherhood, family bonds and how nature and nurture influence who we are.

The film doesn’t shy away from the hard realities of the tragic and life-changing circumstances faced by the two families, but these are more than balanced out by enjoyably earthy scenes depicting family life. The characterisations are wonderfully in-depth, making it a joy to spend time with each of the families, and we are given unique insight into their virtues and faults through the eyes of the two sons.

The film is often funny and moving, without ever being overly sentimental. It also chooses subtlety over melodrama, opting to leave many thoughts and feelings left unsaid, but we are given access to a wide range of emotions as Kore-eda’s camera lingers poignantly on the faces of his central characters.

All of the cast give understated, naturalistic performances, and Fukuyama is sympathetic as Ryota, whose seemingly unlikely redemption ultimately lies at the heart of this film.

Those expecting an unrelentingly sad tearjerker will be pleasantly surprised with a funny, thoughtful and touching film suitable for all ages, with a satisfying and genuinely moving conclusion that stays with the viewer long after the film ends.

 

 

Introduced by Greg Corbett  

Greg Corbett has been visiting Japan since 1998 and has a keen interest in its language and culture.
He teaches Academic English and helps to organise a number of Japanese cultural events in Adelaide.