Starring: Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Yōko Maki
Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
Running Time: 121 mins
Like Father, Like Son is an American film about a husband and wife who are shocked at the revelation that their son was switched at birth, and become embroiled in a heartbreaking dilemma between raising their true biological son or the boy they have raised since birth.
Although it may not seem like much at first, this is a very impressive film. With an engrossing, original and often very sad story, Like Father, Like Son works brilliantly as a down-to-earth family drama, putting heavy emphasis on the performances at hand above all else, but still featuring an intriguing screenplay and effective directing throughout.
The strangest thing about this film for me came in its opening act. To me, the revelation that the boy you’ve been raising as your own isn’t really your son seems like a devastating and horrifying one. In this film, however, it doesn’t really come across that way immediately. Despite the shock that the characters feel, a lot of the film’s emotions felt a lot more subdued than I would have expected if this were a real-life situation.
But in fact, that’s not really a negative here. Although a little strange at first, Like Father, Like Son effectively forgoes melodrama and theatrics for a more subtle and patient emotional rollercoaster, one that will keep you engrossed right up until the end as the characters begin to show more and more cracks than they let on at first.
The biggest positive of this film is definitely the performances. The lead role from Masaharu Fukuyama is excellent, and he brings an incredible level of emotion to the table without going too far into any degree of overacting. His somewhat harsh perspective on the situation at hand is the most fascinating part of the entire story, and Fukuyama perfectly portrays how even a strong, official man like his character can be completely worn down by family turmoil.
Along with that, the story is full of all sorts of other fascinating ideas across the board. Apart from the emotional centre of the film in the plot about the two boys, there’s an intriguing comment on class differences in modern society as we see the differences between the two families involved, a look at how work as a salaryman impacts on home life, and even a small delving into the discussion of nature vs. nurture, both when it comes to the offspring and their parents’ own attitudes.
Finally, this is a very well-directed film. As I’ve said, it succeeds in keeping things quiet and calm on the surface, allowing for a much more human and ultimately more affecting story to play out before you, but director Hirokazu Koreeda also manages to make a very dialogue-heavy film move along at an excellent pace. It’s by no means a fast film, nor should it be, but it progresses at a very consistent pace with the atmosphere, and that makes it a very confident and engaging watch from start to finish.
Overall, I was very impressed by this film. Emotionally affecting, intelligent and deeply engrossing, as well as featuring brilliant performances and directing, Like Father, Like Son is an excellent family drama that you will definitely be invested in right up to the last, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.8.