Those silly Japanese hospitals! Always mixing up kids with the wrong families! You know, just for shits and gigs! Ahaha!
Ryota (Masaharu Fukuyama) is a wealthy businessman that’s fueled mostly by success and the idea that whatever he has coming up next in the pipe-line, will feature even more success and pleasures than the last project he worked on. Even if that does keep him further and further away from his wife, Midori (Machiko Ono), his son, Keita (Keita Ninomiya), and basically anyone else he ever meets. But, for the most part, Ryota is happy with life; most importantly, with his six-year-old son that he feels could be as successful as him, just as long as he dedicates himself long and hard to it. So when Ryota and his wife get a call from the hospital that helped deliver Keita to them, they’re a bit confused as to what this means; turns out, the child they’ve been raising for the past six years, isn’t really theirs. Instead, their biological child is with another family, whereas that family’s child is actually Keita. How this happened in the first place is a total jam and up to the lawyers to decide, but in the meantime, Ryota and Midori feel as if it’s best to test out their options and see whether they should switch Keita and be with their biological child, or, keep Keita with them because the bond is already there.
Basically, if you’re going to have a child, make sure it’s not in Japan.
But no, in all seriousness, that plot-synopsis reads out a bit like a comedy. You could easily see a light-hearted romp centered around the fact that a family who, for the last six years, has raised a child as their own, finds out that it’s not only theirs, but that they’re own child is actually with another family, that just so happens to be a bit lower on the totem-pole than they are. I already see the gold to be made in something like that, with plenty of poop, fart and pee jokes to be added somewhere in the script whenever I see fit.
“Now remember son, don’t ever eat with a fork. That shit’s for weaklings!”
However, that’s not how this movie plays out as; instead, it’s drop dead serious and dramatic. And it’s an amazingly smart decision because it not only makes us understand the seriousness of this situation, but realize that there are actual stakes involved with this controversy. Better yet though, it also gives us a key-hole’s view into these character’s lives, how they live, how they appreciate their family and what it is exactly that they want to pass on for future generations to come. Which, yes, does ultimately mean that the whole “nature vs. nurture” debate comes into play pretty heavily during this movie, but it isn’t done on purpose; mostly, it’s where the human-mind jumps to first.
Instead, what writer/director Hirokazu Koreeda decides to do is keep our attention focused solely on these family-dynamics, and how they are affected by each and every single decision one person makes.
For instance, to make it even clearer, it becomes apparent early on that Ryota has himself a bit of daddy issues. Not only does he distaste his dad for some odd reason, but that he’s trying his damn near hardest not to turn out exactly like, nor have his own kids do the same. He’s trying to be that ultra-serious, strict, do-your-homework-now-or-no-video-games kind of dad, and at first, you think he means well, but ultimately, just ends up being a dick for the way he treats everyone around him. Not just his son, but his wife, as well as people that he just meets and sees as “lower” than him.
In fact, if I had to really nit-pick for a problem that I had with this movie, it was that this character was so one-note after awhile, I wondered what it was exactly that made him such a likable, lovable guy to be with and want to have kids with in the first place? Maybe it was the money? Or maybe it was that he was in a cool, rockin’ band back in the days before he decided to get settled-down and take on some responsibilities? Who knows. All I do know is that this guy was pissing me off dearly and not a single second went by where I didn’t want to knock him square in the nose and ruin that pretty, lush-face of his.
But then, out of nowhere, something happened. Not only did I start to see some good inside this Ryota character, but I also realized that I’m even beginning to sympathize with him and hope that he, as well as his family, all get what they want in the end. Surely I don’t want to spoil why this realization comes so late in the flick, but I will say that, for one thing, Koreeda does not shy away from throwing in whatever naturalistic plot-twist he can find. But it’s not all done in a way that makes it seem calculated and obvious from the start as to what’s going to happen, but more or less that since life hands you surprises every so often, then so does this movie. That part worked for me and it kept me wondering just how this family was going to resolve their little situation, and whether or not certain relationships were going to be crushed or not.
“It says here that ‘we’re fucked’. What do you think that could possibly mean, honey?”
Most of that comes from the fact that Koreeda gives each and every character a beating heart, a living soul and a thinking brain, but because he allows us to see the situation from each and everyone of these viewpoints, regardless of whether we like them or not. Some people think differently than others and while it makes sense why one person would want to take their own kid as their own, the movie brings up the idea that maybe, just maybe, being blood-related is what makes you a father, a brother, a mother, a sister, or any relative, of any sort. What makes you a relative is acting like one – caring, loving and making sure that everything is all fine and dandy with that certain someone, whether they be a blood-relative, or just a person you are related to through marriage or sheer chance.
Koreeda brings this idea up on numerous occasions and by the end, it’s presented in such an honest, bare-bones way, that I was practically swimming in a pool of my own tears. And no, not because this movie features little kids getting their poor little hearts broken on countless occasions, but because it shows the bond one can have with another, as long as it depends on a mutual love and respect for the other. That’s more beautiful than just being a family; that’s just an aspect of life that makes me happy to live, each and everyday I can.
But having my family around me is cool, too. Just tell them to stay out of my room.
Consensus: Though it presents an odd situation worthy and ripe with laughter, Like Father, Like Son‘s ability to play everything as dramatic and as emotional as it can possibly stomach, makes it one of the better movies of the year, leaving you to ponder about your own family and those that you’ve either treated wonderfully as if they were a relative, or like a crap, as if they were a total and complete stranger to begin with.
9 / 10 = Full Price!!
Okay, everybody! Now smile and say “weirdest family portrait ever assembled”!
Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images