Would you choose your natural son, or the son you believed was yours after spending 6 years together? One day Ryota and his wife get an unexpected phone call from the hospital. Their 6-year-old son, Keita, is not ‘their’ son… Ryota is forced to make a life-changing decision.
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It's Capraesque in its simplicity, but fuck it, we could use some Capra. Six years into a deep economic slump, a time when you'll regularly see asshole pundits on TV slagging the poor, Kore-Eda's film makes the beautifully simple argument (in tribute to Ozu) that everyone could be everyone else's family. It gets by on the sort of sentimentality that would seem schmaltzy if it weren't so delicate. But delicate it is.
A delicately handled, what-would-you-do, uptight-v-loose, money-v-time, supremely tearjerking look at Japanese cultural expectations. The halfway twist is rushed, poorly explained and ultimately adds nothing, but otherwise this is classic tissue ruining stuff. A sequel, perhaps 10 years later, picking through the psychological fallout for all the characters, would be very welcome.
If you are an Indonesian, you will be familiar with this switched-at-birth theme on soap operas, which is also the theme for this film. However, ––not to compare Indonesian soap operas and this film–– 'Like Father, Like Son' brings a new perspective to the theme. It is very beautiful, yet simple. If there is anyone out there who are not touched by this film, you should question yourself.
Kore-eda's themes and stylistic approaches are one of the most original that I have ever seen but they seem to be coming to an end. In this film, Kore-eda talks about themes from his past movies and does it with the same "formula" resulting into a superfluous and repetitive film that from the beginning you know how its going to end.
A beautiful, poignant and moving drama that never falls from it wonderfully subtle heights. Powerful and never dull, the scenes of extreme sadness and nostalgia juxtaposed with the joyous scenes of childhood are a wonder to behold. Nearly a masterpiece. 4.5/5
Those complaining about the characters' conduct may be imposing their foreign sensibilities. I find Kore-eda's films piercingly intimate in their portrayals of Japanese families, sometimes painfully so. That's a compliment. But instead of the contrived courtroom twist, I'd have preferred a challenge among the families (say one boy had a congenital illness, or one family did not want either child).
Powerful performances and subtle shifts in dynamic keep this measured story of family moving and constantly engaging. The young Ninomiya Keita steals the show here perfectly encapsulating the fragility of childhood dependence which makes his final turn all the more powerful. Recommended 4 stars