Like Father, Like Son (4 stars)

Like Father, Like Son   

Hirokazu Kore-eda's Cannes prize-winning family drama is a delicate if overlong charmer

Hirokazu Kore-eda's gentle, perceptive studies of family life (Nobody Knows, Still Walking, I Wish etc) have rightly earned him comparisons with Ozu. His acute observations and sensitive approach create films that feel intensely personal yet retain a universal emotional resonance.

His Cannes prize-winner Like Father, Like Son uses a well-worn plot device as a springboard to explore the meaning of family and fatherhood in an age and a society where guilty  parents struggle to achieve a healthy life/work balance.

Ryota (Masaharu Fukuyama) is a hard-working Tokyo architect who rarely has time to play happy families with his docile wife Midori (Machiko Ono) and their six year-old son Keita (Keita Ninomiya). Keita's days are planned with military precision and filled with activities to improve his mind and prepare him for a bright future. Everything changes when the family are informed that Keita is not their biological son. Two babies were switched at birth. Their biological son Ryusei (Hwang Sho-gen) has been raised in the bustling, busy household of  suburban storeowners Yudai (Lily Franky) and Yuraki (Yoko Maki). 

The families are deliberate studies in contrasts, separated by class, wealth and ambition. Would it be fair to the boys to simply swap sons after six years? The least they can do is meet and try to arrive at a solution that all can accept.

Like Father, Like Son is a delicate, overlong charmer that creates credible dilemmas from the situation in which the two families find themselves. There is predictable drama in the way Ryota is forced to re-examine his priorities and acknowledge that all a family really needs is love. It may sound sentimental and trite but Hirokazu's sensitive handling ensures that it is also real and poignant.

Limited release from Fri 18 Oct.

Like Father, Like Son Teaser English subtiteld

Like Father, Like Son (Soshite chichi ni naru)

  • 4 stars
  • 2013
  • Japan
  • 2h
  • PG
  • Directed by: Hirokazu Koreeda
  • Cast: Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Yôko Maki
  • UK release: 18 October 2013

Ryota Nonomiya is a successful businessman driven by money. He learns that his biological son was switched with another child after birth. He must make a life-changing decision and choose his true son or the boy he raised as his own.