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Review: Kore-eda’s Like Father Like Son

A man standing next to a tree

MISSED OPPORTUNITY?

Winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2013 under the presidency of Steven Spielberg — who’s actually planning to produce the american remake — Like Father Like Son underlines once again the talent of Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda, whose efficient classical style is much appreciated, especially in a time where most Japanese productions look nothing like movies…

Despite its success abroad in different international film festival, the fact Kore-eda is one of the most respected Japanese filmmaker in activity, the film wasn’t selected to represent Japan at the 2014’s Oscars — it looked like the perfect candidate. Instead, it was Yuya Ishii’s The Great Passage, which was critically acclaimed in Japan and that’s it. In the end, Japan wasn’t even in the final candidates, just another missed opportunity?

SAME WORLD, DIFFERENT PEOPLE

Through the story of two families coming from different social backgrounds but experiencing the same tragic event, Like Father Like Son is talking about the idea of filiation between parents & children — what is more important? raising a child, or being biologically related to the child? A difficult question, especially for one of the fathers, who thought his life was going forward the way he had expected it.

The director tells the story using this very particular point of view to explore the social issues, to describe how the upper-class families are obsessed with the notion of success, trying to figure out their unique role in society, living life with rules, principles that can’t be questioned. And considering every human interaction reflect some kind of power struggle.

Unlike the other family, they don’t have much money, nor good manners, but they’re more interested in simple human values, respecting other people instead of judging anyone. Two different perspectives, two ways to live this drama.

KORE-EDA. WHAT ELSE?

Slow-paced, the story shows how this father is experiencing the reality, facing something quite unexpected, and trying to find ways to keep living. The man is lost and confused, he will have to change his view of the world and how he interacts with it — it’s no surprise the character often appears on screen surrounding by blurred elements, he’s literally stuck in this limited deep of field.

Kore-eda’s directing choice carefully reflects the inner dilemma the character is living, the director makes an interesting use of visual elements to show the character’s state of mind and its evolution — using roads, stairways, railroad crossings… Just like some road corners will symbolically reveal the confusion to come… And overall, the film has a subtle way to point out the relationships between characters, a simple glare, a small move is often more emotionally important than any words.

But, behind the classical efficiency of Kore-eda’s style, the slow narrative pace, the story offers no surprise, we can guess what’s happening, and the final result is obvious right from the beginning — the introduction shows some nice, clear and simple editing skills, it contains the whole film! Despite many emotionally powerful sequences — the mothers dealing with this situation — the film moves forward, confirming expectations more than anything else, while underlining some of the main ideas — for example, the father meeting his father.

 

IN THE END…

Simple, subtle, classic, that’s sums up Kore-eda’s Like Father Like Son, the film takes its time to portray the deep questionning of a strict man living in a strict world. While the film isn’t always exciting, it still delivers some beautiful and touching scenes.

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