There are two things to note about Director Hirokazu Kore-eda films. Firstly, He has produced a string of high quality dramas, characterised by their humanity and tenderness. No One Knows, I Wish, Still Walking and Distance all charmed and won a string of awards. Secondly, the stars of his films are often children. Like Father, Like Son carries on this strong tradition, scooping the Jury Prize at Cannes and featuring brilliant performances from both adults and children alike.
Ryota Nonomiya (Masaharu Fukushima) is a successful, money-driven businessman. He lives with his wide Midori (Machika Ono) and their polite son Keita. Nonomiya pushes his son and wants him to follow in his footsteps, but if frustrated by his son’s gentle nature. When they discover that their child was swapped at birth, he insists that blood counts and they set about the process of exchanging children. Their biological son Ryusei lives with Mr and Mrs Saiki (Lily Franky & Maki Yoko), and the families are encouraged to spend time together. However, the Saikis come from a completely different perspective, more play than work, and Nonomiya gradually begins to weigh up his life and whether blood is so important.
The premise is quite heartbreaking, and Koreeda plays events out slowly, choosing to opt for subtlety over melodrama. There’s a quiet joy which has ebbed its way through all his films. This isn’t an all action film, full of twists and sub-plots. In the same way Ozu’s films are jaw-dropping in their simplicity and heart, Like Father, Like Son is a magnificent work of cinema. Nonomiya is a tough nut, and Masaharu Fukushima puts in the performance of his life in the lead role. As for the children, I’ve never seen a director consistently coax awe-inspiring performances out of child actors.
This is a quiet study of fatherhood and the relationship between a father and son. You’ll spend much of the film on the edge of tears and you’re unlikely to see many better films this year. With Like Father, Like Son, Hirokazu Kore-eda has solidified his position as one of the greatest living film-makers. It’s a work of great beauty, delicacy and love.
Out now at the Showroom