By William Wolf

NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL 2013--LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON  Send This Review to a Friend

A sensitive, touching film from Japan follows the problems of two families who suddenly find their lives turned upside down as a result of a mistake. Life is going along well for Ryota (Masaharu Fukuyama), an ambitious architect, his wife Midori (Machiko Ono) and their six-year-old son Keita (Keta Ninomiya), especially with the father-son bonding. But a call out of the blue from a hospital provides striking information. A nurse’s error resulted in their taking home someone else’s son. Keita is not really theirs.

Writer-director Hirokazu Kore-eda, in this film showcased at the 2013 New York Film Festival, also introduces us to Yudai (Lily Franky) and his wife Yukari (Yoko Maki), Keita’s birth family, with its lower class status. They have been raising Ryusei, the real son of Ryota and Madori.

With everything already entrenched, what are these families to do? Are they to agree to a switch? If so, how would that affect each of the children, as well as the parents?

To the filmmaker’s credit, the problems are explored with a balance of emotion and sensibility, as well as with some humor. There can be no completely satisfactory solution, but what would be in the best interest of the children?

There have been real-life cases of such switches at birth, and in this treatment, we get a candid view on the various ramifications caused by the error and the deep-rooted problems in trying to correct the situation in light of the passage of time. The element of class difference also enters the equation.

How the problem is gradually worked out makes for an absorbing, involving drama, with excellent acting by all concerned and an accomplishment of compelling story-telling. A Sundance Selects release. Posted November 20, 2013.


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