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Like Father, Like Son (Soshite Chichi Ni Naru) (PG)

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The ViewAuckland Review

Review byMatthew Turner12/10/2013

Five out of Five stars
Running time: 120 mins

Brilliantly directed, powerfully emotional and sharply observed Japanese drama with a superb script and terrific performances from the entire cast.

What's it all about?
Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, Like Father, Like Son (Soshite chichi ni naru, original title fans) is set in contemporary Japan and stars Masaharu Fukushima as wealthy architect Ryota Nonomiya, who lives in an expensive apartment with his wife Midori (Machiko Ono) and their piano-playing, academically gifted six year old son Keita (Keita Yukari), who's being fast-tracked for a prestigious school. However, their world is turned upside down when they receive a call from the hospital and discover that Keita (an only child) was switched at birth with another boy and that their real son has been raised by Yudai and Yukari Saiki (Franky Lily and Yoko Maki), a loving couple from the poor side of town who run a dilapidated electrician's shop and have two other young children, both devoted to their older brother.

After getting over the initial shock (and banding together to sue the hospital), the couples decide to spend time together, first as a group and then letting the boys stay with their new families for weekend visits, with the goal of eventually swapping them altogether. However, Ryota secretly plans to get custody of both boys, by proving that the Saikis are unfit parents.

The Good
Masaharu Fukushima and Franky Lily are terrific as the contrasting fathers - Ryota is cold, snobbish and emotionally distant, where Yudai is playful, child-like and warm-hearted – while Machiko Ono and Yoko Maki are equally good as their wives, both of whom have subtly different relationships with their husbands. Similarly, Kore-eda's reputation for getting extraordinarily natural performances out of children is well-established, but he excels himself here, particularly in the case of young Keita Yukari – watching him gradually warm to his new family (without fully understanding what's going on) is powerfully moving.

Though nominally centred on Ryota (who's fairly conventionally set up for redemption), the film takes the time to explore the emotional consequences of their decision for each of the characters – the effect of this is that the focus on the Saiki's boy Ryusei (Wang Shogen) comes fairly late in the film and whereas Keita adjusts relatively easily, Ryusei, deprived of his siblings and faced with an emotionally distant new father, struggles in heart-breaking fashion.

The Great
The involving, sharply observed script explores provocative themes of nature versus nurture and the importance of both family and a happy, loving childhood. In addition, despite the seriousness of the central story there are moments of warmth and humour and Kore-eda orchestrates a number of deeply moving scenes (tissues are advised), culminating in an ending that is more or less perfect.

Worth seeing?
Like Father, Like Son is a superbly directed family drama with a powerfully emotional script and terrific performances from a fine ensemble cast. Unmissable.

Film Trailer

Like Father, Like Son (Soshite Chichi Ni Naru) (PG)
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Content updated: 27/02/2020 11:11

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