Like Father, Like Son (aka Soshite chichi ni naru) review by Alyse Garner - Cinema Paradiso
When a successful businessman learns that the son he has raised is not his own and that his biological son was switched for another child at birth he is forced to make a life changing decision about whether to chose the child who shares his blood or the one he raised as his own. From the director of the wonderful I Wish, a film that explores the lives of two children separated by their parent’s divorce, Like Father, Like Son is another moving and thoughtful picture by Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda.
Just as he did in I Wish Koreeda presents his audience with a slow and gentle narrative that allows his characters to develop and evolve whilst remaining connected with the others around them.
Connection and the bond between families is put under a microscope here, though it remains an undiluted emotional rather than scientific experience; the businessman father, Ryota Nonomiya (Masaharu Fukuyama) loves his six year old son, Keita, he wants the very best for him and the film begins as he and his wife watch the boy regurgitate seemingly perfect answers at an entrance interview for a prestigious school. Yet there has never been any particular connection between the two, they do not share an emotional bond and there is no affection shown between them. Upon learning that this boy is in fact not his own but the son of a middle class shop owner with two other children Ryota believes that this gulf has always been because of this.
The four parents decide to switch their children back, slowly integrating them into the birth families by inviting them to stay first only at weekends, however when Ryota sees Keita slip happily into his new life, welcomed by his siblings and warmly accepted by his parents, he is forced to question whether there was more to their missing connection than a lack of shared DNA.
Like Father, Like Son is a gentle film, there is no other way to put it, it explores potentially difficult, painful and complicated emotions at a solid and well timed pace, it does not rush the characters, nor the story and, though some may find the film tedious, others will see the beauty inherent in it.