LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON (SOSHITE CHICHI NI NARU) (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2013)
IFC Center, 323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St., 212-924-7771
Lincoln Plaza Cinema, 1886 Broadway at 63rd St., 212-757-2280
Opens Friday, January 17
International cinema’s modern master of the family drama turns out another stunner in the Cannes Jury Prize winner Like Father, Like Son. Ryota Nonomiya (Masaharu Fukuyama) thinks he has the perfect life: a beautiful wife, Midori (Machiko Ono), a successful job as an architect, and a splendid six-year-old son, Keita (Keita Ninomiya). But his well-structured world is turned upside down when the hospital where Keita was born suddenly tells them that Keita is not their biological son, that a mistake was made and a pair of babies were accidentally switched at birth. When Ryota and Midori meet Yudai (Lily Franky) and Yukari Saiki (Maki Yoko), whose infant was switched with theirs, Ryota is horrified to see that the Saikis are a lower-middle-class family who cannot give their children — they have three kids, including Ryusei (Shôgen Hwang), the Nonomiyas’ biological son — the same advantages that Ryota and Midori can. Meanwhile, the two mothers wonder why they were unable to realize that the sons they’ve been raising are not really their own. As the two families get to know each other and prepare to switch boys, Ryota struggles to reevaluate what kind of a father he is, as well as what kind of father he can be.
Kore-eda, who previously investigated the lives of children and families in such beautiful, terrifically insightful films as Still Walking, Nobody Knows, and I Wish, wrote, directed, and edited Like Father, Like Son, imbuing the complex story with an Ozu-like austerity, examining a heartbreaking, seemingly no-win situation — one of every parent’s most-feared nightmares — with intelligence and grace. Musician and actor Fukuyama gives a powerfully understated performance as Ryota, a work-obsessed architect struggling to keep everything he has built from crumbling all around him. Novelist and actor Franky is excellent as his polar opposite, a man with a very different kind of verve for life. In Like Father, Like Son, Kore-eda, whose own father passed away ten years ago and who has a five-year-old daughter, once again explores the relationship between parents and children, this time focusing on the strong bonds created by both love and blood.