The Movie Waffler New Release Review - Like Father, Like Son | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Like Father, Like Son

Two couples learn their sons were switched at birth.

Directed by: Hirokazu Koreeda
Starring: Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Yoko Maki, Lily Franky

Ryota (Masaharu) is a successful businessman. His success has come at a cost however, leaving him little time to spend with his wife and six-year-old son. A determined individual for whom winning is all that counts, Ryota sees little of himself in his son, who struggles with his piano lessons and "accepts losing too easily", and assumes the child takes after his kindly mother Midori (Machiko) until the couple are informed of a mix-up at the hospital where Midori gave birth. Ryota and Midori are introduced to Yudai (Franky) and Yukari (Yoko), the couple who have been raising their child and vice versa. Both couples are faced with the decision of whether to maintain the status quo or exchange the children.
As a child, I was constantly being told that winning isn't everything, it's the taking part that counts. Today that seems like an outdated idea as our society becomes increasingly competitive. There's nothing wrong with wanting to be a winner, of course, but, for too many of us, winning is simply about beating the opposition rather than proving our own abilities. In 'Like Father, Like Son' writer-director Hirokazu examines this mentality from a distinctly Japanese perspective. 
Ryota is the classic workaholic Japanese businessman, but he's lost sight of the point of his work. On a visit to a man-made environment, the design of which he was responsible for, he can't share the wonder of a worker who explains the process of a creature's development from larva to pupa; Ryota simply thinks fifteen years is too long a time. He displays the same impatience with his (unnatural) son's piano playing, asking the child why he bothers with the instrument if he can't conquer it.
Yudai, on the other hand, is someone for whom life is purely about taking part. He's content with his life as a modest hardware store owner as it allows him time to spend with his family and his motto is "never do today what you can put off till tomorrow". Ryota simply sees this man's life as pathetic and determines to win his natural son back from him. 
The set-up seems custom made for a crass Hollywood remake. I dread to think what the likes of Judd Apatow and adam Sandler would do with this scenario. Hirokazu plays it straight but the best film-makers know that even the most serious of scenarios require a touch of levity. 'Like Father, Like Son' may plumb the depths of melancholy, and is easily the most heartbreaking film of the year, but it's also got a fantastic sense of humor. Whenever things seem to be taking a mournful turn, Hirokazu interjects a great moment of comedy to cheer us up, like a friendly poke in the ribs. It's rare to see this level of humor in Asian cinema but Hirokazu's film is one of the wittiest of the year.
Unless, like its protagonist Ryota, you're made of stone, this is a movie you can't help but fall for.

Eric Hillis