Like Father, Like Son

(Soshite Chichi ni Naru)
(Japan, 2013, 119 mins, DCP)
CAST Fukuyama Masaharu, Ono Machiko, Maki Yoko, Lily Franky, Iura Arata
PRODS Matsuzaki Kaoru, Taguchi Hijiri
SCR/ED Koreeda Hirokazu
CAM Takimoto Mikiya
PROD DES Mitsumatsu Keiko
PROD CO Amuse Inc / Fuji Television Networks / Gaga Corporation


The first thing you’ll notice about Koreeda’s new film is that it looks very different from his past work: looser, more informal. That’s because he’s working without his regular cinematographer Yamazaki Yutaka (he was busy on another job), but the change is in perfect sync with the theme of the film.

Koreeda starts from a conundrum: what if it were discovered, six years after the event, that a hospital had inadvertently swapped two male babies and given them to the wrong parents? Despite marked differences in class, temperament and approaches to parenting, the Nonomiya and Saiki couples respond to this bombshell by exchanging their sons. Young Keita adjusts quite easily to the easy-going Seiki household, but Ryusei has a harder time of it with the Nonomiyas; his new father Ryota is quite stern and has difficulty in expressing emotion.

Koreeda, a newish father himself, admits that the distant Ryota is a kind of wry self-portrait—which helps explain why the account of a man loosening up and learning to love his wife and son is so profoundly believable. And the film’s visual informality matches Ryota’s more relaxed sensibility. Koreeda looks more and more like the best mapper of the terrain of Japanese families since Ozu.

Tony Rayns

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