Thursday, February 20, 2014

Soshite Chici ni Naru (Like Father, Like Son)

Great, great movie, and I'm sorry I didn't really have a chance to see it and write about it until after the sci-fi festival, because that means that as I post this early Thursday morning, it means that anybody reading it in the Boston area basically has the day to see it on the big screen at Kendall Square, and it doesn't look to be making a movie elsewhere after that one week booking. It's another thing that makes me really envy Paris's film culture - when I was there on vacation, I saw plenty of ads for its Christmas Day opening at many theaters, whereas here the film got a January release and didn't even make it to Boston until a month later. Lousy way to treat a fantastic movie by a genuine master.

One thing I did note about this movie that actually threw me a bit in the beginning was that distributor Sundance Selects actually kept the proper Japanese name order (family name followed by given name) in the subtitles and credits, which seems to be unusual - most of the Japanese media I consume switches them around to the Western order, even though you can hear it spoken properly on the soundtrack. I don't know if there's anything to be made of it, other than my usual curiosity at how easy it is to get in the habit of switching name order for Japanese people most of the time while not doing so for Chinese or Korean people (with the apparent exception of baseball players).

Also, every other movie I see this year will have its work cut out for it topping my favorite scene in this movie, where Keita carefully and painstakingly plays a piece on a piano that is pretty good for a six-year-old, earning his parents' applause before a cut to a similarly-aged prodigy just blowing one's mind with how well she plays, followed by Keita's father Ryota just unloading a lot of unfair disappointment on his son. It's a happy-funny-kind-of-horrifying roller coaster in just a couple of minutes, and the whole movie is packed with moments that are that good or nearly so.

Soshite Chici ni Naru (Like Father, Like Son)

* * * * (out of four)
Seen 18 February 2014 in Landmark Kendalll Square #4 (first-run, DCP)

Those who have been following Hirokazu Kore-eda's career for roughly the last decade may find it a little surprising that the two six-year-old boys at the center of Like Father, Like Son (Soshite Chici ni Naru in the original Japanese) are not necessarily the lens through which they see the entire film. We shouldn't be surprised; although he has made a few notable films that take a child's point of view, that's not all he does, and this film benefits immensely from his being able to move between childrens' and adults' perspectives.

It starts with Keita Nonomiya (Keita Ninomiya) and his parents Ryota (Masaharu Fukuyama) and Midori (Machiko Ono) interviewing for a private elementary school; it's intimidating, but Keita impresses just like they taught him in cram school, even if the six-year-old isn't the workaholic his father is. While waiting for a response, the Nonomiyas are stunned by another call they receive about their son - that he was switched at birth with Ryusei (Shogen Hwang), the son of Yudai (Riri Furanki) and Yukari Saiki (Yoko Maki), something not-unheard of in Japanese maternity wards until the 1970s but now very uncommon. The families meet so that the boys can start to get acquainted with their birth parents in anticipation of being "exchanged" - something, the hospital administrators say, happens in nearly all such cases.

There's a great sequence after the Nonomiyas learn that Keita may not be their biological child but before it's confirmed where Kore-eda gives us a montage of the parents playing with him, even though Ryota is otherwise rather office-bound. Though the scenes are wordless, it's immediately clear that Ryota and Midori are trying to get as much time in while Keita is still their son, hinting that parenthood is a state of mind even if they don't consciously realize as much yet. Like so much of the movie, it is filled with the simple delights of young kids while also being full to bursting with uncertainty, both over what will happen next and just what the characters think that they should feel.

Full review at EFC

No comments: