‘Like Father, Like Son’: Tasteful tale of boys switched at birth
By BILL STAMETS For Sun-Times Media January 30, 2014 5:44PM
Two very different sets of parents discover they’ve been raising one another’s 6-year-old sons in the beautifully told “Like Father, Like Son.” | SUNDANCE SELECTS
‘LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON’ ★★★1⁄2
Ryota Nonomiya Fukuyama Masaharu
Midorino Nonomiya Ono Machiko
Yukari Saiki Maki Yoko
Yudai Saiki Lily Franky
Sundance Selects presents a film written and directed by Kore-eda Hirokazu. In Japanese with English subtitles. Running time: 120 minutes. No MPAA rating. Opens Friday at the Music Box Theatre.
Updated: March 3, 2014 2:44PM
Two boys are switched at birth at a Japanese hospital. Six years later their parents learn they are raising one another’s sons. “Like Father, Like Son”— screened last fall at the Chicago International Film Festival — is a beautifully told story of parenting by writer, director and editor Kore-eda Hirokazu.
Kore-eda portrayed family themes in his earlier “I Wish” (2011), where two young brothers separated by divorce seek to unite, and “Nobody Knows” (2004), a drama based on a news story about four kids living with no parents around. In the end credits of “Like Father, Like Son,” Kore-eda lists a book by Shuji Okuno about a switched-at-birth case in Japan, but the film is fictional.
Ryota Nonomiya (Fukuyama Masaharu) is hard-working architect living in a high-rise apartment with his wife and son. As a father he is too formal. His disciplined household is hardly like the Saikis’. All five members of that raucous family bathe together.
The two boys start spending time in their new homes, intuiting what is afoot. From the immature, less industrious shopkeeper Yudai Saiki (Lily Franky), Ryota will learn how to be a better dad. Fly bamboo kites with my son, Yudai tells Ryota.
Class contrasts between the two families — upscale cool versus working-class warmth — skirt on cliche. Yet the sentiment is authentic. This is an exquisitely sensitive drama. Kore-eda never exploits its emotional notes. One nice touch: segues between a fine piano score and recital scenes with kiddie pianists. Subtle tracking shots foretell the transit of sons between families.
“Like Father, Like Son” is always wise about the quandary faced by the two fathers and the two mothers. Who is my true son? How did six years of my love make him mine, regardless of his genes at day one? How do I start over with a stranger?