LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda
Jury Prize, 2013 Cannes Film Festival
Best Film, Best Director, 2013 Asia-Pacific Film Festival
Movie kids never seem as alive as they do in the films of Hirokazu Kore-eda (Nobody Knows, I Wish). His latest gives two six-year-old boys the opportunity to think through ordinary life puzzles and play with each other like it’s their first – or last – time. As in Kore-eda’s masterpiece Still Walking, this one begins with an excruciatingly simple premise that the director will then peel back a gentle layer at a time, until kids, in their endearingly charming ways, put into focus what is family to begin with.
Toward the beginning of LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON, we’re told that there are many types of families. It’s a truism that allows us to accept the predicament of the Nonomiya and Saiki families, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Both had raised their sons for six years before finding out that the hospital switched the boys at birth. They’re told that 100% of parents in this situation will undergo some form of “exchange.” And so begins the deliberation, the negotiation, the transition, and ultimately, the self-reflection that so many parents take for granted.
The drama is tied to the implications of each family’s different parenting styles, a comedic way of exploring nature and nurture. But more piercing is the fact that one family is significantly richer than the other, yet they are tied by the inexplicable cruelty of blood. And standing in the middle are a set of unflappable children whose adorable frowns and honest eyes transcend genetics and remind us, through a cinematic naturalism not afforded to their parents, that any decisions must begin with the preciousness of life itself. –Brian Hu