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LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON

SYNOPSIS:
The life of go-getting workaholic architect Ryota Nonomya (Masaharu Fukuyama), one of comfort and quietly ordered affluence with his wife Midori (Machiko Ono) and son Keita (Keita Ninomya), is violently overturned when hospital administrators reveal the unthinkable: Keita is not his biological son. Due to a mistake made by a nurse (Megumi Morisaki), his 'true' son has been raised in the dishevelled but warm-hearted home of working-class shopkeeper Yudai Saiki (Riri Furanki) and his wife Yukari (Yoko Maki).

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
In contemporary Japan, the echoes of old Japanese gender culture lingers like a ghost, with the added layers of corporate pressure, sometime self imposed. But Hirokazu Kore-eda's focus here is on the theme of fatherhood, coupled with the theme of parenthood as a biological or nurturing drive.

The film begins with a clean palate, straight lines, neat apartment and absence of chaos as the Nonomaya nuclear family skates through life, balanced on the edge of workaholism. Ryota Nonomya (Masaharu Fukuyama) is a talented architect with a large firm, his wife Midori (Machiko Ono) in captivity as the mother at home, their 6 year old son Keita (Keita Ninomya) content in the safety of their comforts.

It's not until the Nonomayas learn their baby was switched at birth with another that we meet that other family, the Saikis, a happily dishevelled shopkeeper (a devoted father) and his take away food shop waitress wife. They have three kids, the 6 year old Ryusei (Shogen Hwang) the eldest.

The contrast between the families' lifestyles and paternal attitudes plays on the dilemma facing them: to keep the boys they parented or switch them for the biological match. Within the confines of a Japanese marriage, modern as it is, these issues are hard edged, and the screenplay puts the burden on Ryota, the rather inflexible, self contained professional with little time for fatherhood.

By contrast, Yudai Saiki (Riri Furanki) is a happy go lucky, unambitious husband and father, but not so happy go lucky as to be uncaring whether he gets a decent compensation payout from the hospital.

Which brings us to the nature of the baby switching, a cleverly devised idea in the screenplay to underline the issues of parenting and its impacts. Sensitively performed and directed, Like Father, Like Son is a series of acutely observed insights into its themes and its social setting, as well as a close study of human nature faced with some complex issues that go to the heart of our natural genetic urges.

The film won the Cannes Jury Prize and was nominated for Best Picture by the Japanese Academy, among a raft of awards and nominations including several from the Asia Pacific Screen Awards held on the Gold Coast.

Review by Louise Keller:
Life's deepest questions about parenthood are posed in this heartfelt drama in which bloodlines and nurturing come head to head when two babies are switched at birth. Lifestyle, work ethics, the importance of money as well as the ability and willingness to make time for parenting are critical elements in Hirokazu Kore-eda's powerful film and it tugs at the heartstrings as it plays out. Like the ripples in a stream disturbed by an unruly pebble, the revelation impacts profoundly not only on the two small boys but on their respective families. With delicacy, the resulting nuances reveal themselves, as the richness of the human relationships develop and alter their course.

When we first meet Ryota (Masaharu Fukuyama), his wife Midori (Machiko Ono) and their six year old son Keita (Keita Nimoniya), we quickly sense there is a strict structure and formality about their life. There is no questioning of the devotion Ryota has for his wife and son, but his priorities are work-related with a keen eye to a prosperous future. His work ethic spills over to his expectations for his son - be it practising the piano or having the will to win. 'Now it all makes sense,' Ryota says, thinking about Keita's complacent nature, when he learns about the hospital's mistake.

The contrast between their lifestyle and that of the family identified to have been given their biological son Ryusei (Hwang Sho-gen) is immeasurable. The storekeeper Yukari (Yoko Maki) and Yudai (Lily Franky) are simple people with two other children; Yukari is the total opposite of Ryota in that he does not like to work at all. His motto is to put off today what you can do tomorrow. He thrives on playing with the children, bathing together and likes fixing things. When the two boys stay with their respective biological parents as a first step, Ryusei compares Ryota and Midori's formal apartment to that of a hotel.

Ryota's initial concern is that Yukari's emphasis appears to be on the remuneration the hospital will have to pay out for their gross error. His first thought is to buy a solution - to keep both boys. It is clear that the storekeeper and his wife have little trouble adapting to the new circumstances, whereas Ryota and Midori struggle considerably. While Ryusei's enquiring nature may be more in line with Ryota's own personality, he is irritated by the distraction of the lack of discipline

The film's emotional heart focuses on Ryota and the journey he faces as he is forced to confront the real issues in his life. The subtle way in which Kore-eda manages to convey the shift as the realisation impacts is one that is both moving and powerful. Japan in cherry blossom time looks especially beautiful and Mikiya Takimoto's cinematography enhances the setting. I especially like the use of the counterpoint piano music towards the end of the film, when the changing lives are highlighted.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON (PG)
(Jap, 2013)

Soshite chichi ni naru

CAST: Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Yoko Maki, Riri Furanki, Keita Nonomya, Shogen Whang, Isao Natsuyagi

PRODUCER: Kaoru Matsuzaki, Hijiri Taguchi

DIRECTOR: Hirokazu Kore-eda

SCRIPT: Hirokazu Kore-eda

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mikiya Takimoto

EDITOR: Hirokazu Kore-eda

MUSIC: Takeshi Matsubara, Junichi Matsumoto, Takashi Mori

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Keiko Mitsumatsu

RUNNING TIME: 121 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 17, 2014







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