HKAFF: Like Father, Like Son 誰調換了我的父親 そして父になる (2013) – Japan

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 14th November 2013

Directed by: 是枝裕和 Kore-eda Hirokazu
Starring: 福山雅治 Fukuyama Masaharu, 尾野真千子 Ono Machiko, Lily Franky, 真木陽子 Maki Yoko

Reviewed at 10th Hong Kong Asian Film Festival 2013

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The beauty about this film is that it deals with the most touching issues. Director Kore-eda Hirokazu (“Nobody Knows”) is an expert in directing children (his last film – “I Wish”) and how they respond to drastic change is perfectly encapsulated in the film. The film plays on the audience emotions from the get go and not only simply engages, but keeping the audience’s teary eyed for the entire duration. This is by no means a small feat as we are constantly reminded of how difficult and unique the situation really is. Families separating are one thing, but realizing that the child you been raising for six odd years is someone else’s, is all the illuminating. 2013 is a year, where the Japanese in particular have been dealing with issue of family and “Like Father, Like Son” is right up there in terms of relevance, universal messages and life.

Fukuyama Masaharu plays a successful commercial worker who is rising up the ranks quickly. One of the great things about this film is that you can slowly witness the change that everyone goes through. In many ways, Masaharu, the father of the child changes the most and by the end of the film, he is almost irresistible in terms of bringing the audience to tears. The final scene where he chases after his so called son (played by Keita Ninomiya), is that of cinematic magic, as years of emotions finally comes full circle all in one beautifully depicted scene. Keita Ninomiya is amazing as the son that needs to come to terms of being neglected and left behind to start a new life with his blood related father (played by Lily Franky). Keita Ninomiya steals the show with every scene, as his cute-eyed looks and childhood innocence is perfectly played out. Alongside his father, their chemistry is simply magical and if Ninomiya stare at the audience, doesn’t make you watery, then I don’t know what will. Ono Machiko is also brilliant as the mother torn in between all the proceeding. In fact, you feel for the mother the most. Having raised and spend almost every waking hour with the six year old, while her husband spend 24/7 at work, Ono Machiko is ultimately the one that suffers the most. Her restrained and hugely underrated performance is to be complimented. Everyone plays there part extremely well, as the other side of the family experiencing the same issues (played by Lily Franky and Yôko Maki) provides a different side to parenthood. Franky and Maki represents the working class, where their down to earth nature makes them reflect the brutal reality of life as well as the internal turmoil of the situation.

All in all, “Like Father, Like Son” is really one of those almost perfect films, where one cannot find any faults within. Some may find the ending inconclusive, but to me, it is the perfect way to end the film and the final scene where the father chases after the son will likely stay within the audience hearts long after the credit rolls. I am not sure why local Hong Kong cinema rarely deals with issues like these and with the local industry dearth with genuine ideas and mainland censorship, more films like these can certainly help. Essentially, “Like Father, Like Son” is one of those rare films that keep the audience totally engaged, thoroughly profound, fully emoted and ultimately refreshing. In the scale of perfect cinema, this stands quite close. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 9/10

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