Like Father, Like Son (Japan: Soshite chichi ni naru), 2013.
Written and Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda.
Starring Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Yoko Maki, and Lily Franky.
Who would you choose: the son you’ve brought up for six years as your own, or your own flesh and blood? Two families have to decide.
Kore-eda Hirokazu’s Like Father, Like Son opens with young Keita being interviewed with his parents at a prestigious private school. When 6-year-old Keita is asked to describe a happy memory, he talks about a kite-flying afternoon on a camping trip with his dad, Ryota (Fukuyama Masaharu). After the interview, Ryota says that they have never taken such a trip, but the boy says his interview coach told him it was a good story. This trip is taken later in the film, but under very different circumstances.
Ryota is a handsome, successful architect. We see him popping into the office on a Saturday and bumping into his boss. When Ryota asks him if he wants to get a drink, the boss declines, remarking: “You work so hard that now I can spend time with my family”. Ryota’s wife Midori (Ono Machiko) is attractive, submissive and clearly in love with her family. But this boy is something of a disappointment to his go-getting dad. Ryota wants a brilliant and competitive child so when they discover that Keita is not their natural son, he is almost relieved.
The other family involved in the baby-swapping incident could not be more different from Keita’s. If Ryota and Midori represent a preconceived notion of the Japanese – wealthy, modern and overly focussed on their child’s performance capacities – these notions go out of the window when we meet Yudai (Lily Franky), Yukari (Maki Yoko) and their three children. Yudai is a hands-on dad, happy to make a fool of himself. He doesn’t believe in working too hard and is happy at his electrical appliance store. His wife and children obviously adore him.
As the families meet in readiness to swap the children back to their natural parents, Yudai seems happy to make a quick buck from the event, even billing the hospital for food they eat on the outing. Ryota is shocked at this, repeatedly commenting that it is not about the money, but the principle. Yet this man is only able weigh success through financial reward and he is horrified when he sees the other family’s relative poverty. He decides that the best thing to do is to take both boys.
This is a film about family, love and redemption. Throughout the film, Ryota receives signals from all those around him that his parenting skills are seriously wanting, yet he takes no action. It is only once the exchange has been made that he realises the many errors of his ways. He has been an unforgiving child to his father and stepmother, and a harsh and unloving parent. His own difficult childhood is not reason enough for his tough love stance. As this finally dawns on him, we reach the denouement of the film: will he be forgiven? Has his realisation come too late? This is a warm and moving film, with excellent performances all round and a superb soundtrack.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★
Jo Ann Titmarsh