Award-winning Like Father, Like Son explores parental pain

by Mark Burger

Writer/director Hirozaku Kore-eda’s Like Father, Like Son is not (ever) to be confused with the dopey Dudley Moore/ Kirk Cameron body-switch comedy of the 1980s.

Instead, this incisive, award-winning drama (originally titled Soshite Chichi ni naru) is a powerful drama about two families thrown into turmoil when it is discovered that their sons were switched at birth.

Masahari u Fukuyama plays Ryota Nonomiya, a high-powered businessman whose carefully ordered life is thrown into disarray by the revelation. Having raised Keita (the young actor’s name is actually Keita Nonomiya, his character’s name) for six years, Ryota and wife Midori (Machiko Ono) are now confronted with the unthinkable idea that their only child is not their own. Or, having raised him, is he?

Ryota is the film’s principal character, but all the major characters are portrayed in carefully textured fashion. Kore-eda’s fine cast of actors convey different aspects of shock, dismay and ultimately acceptance of a situation beyond their individual and collective control. Ono registers very strongly as Ryota’s quietly long-suffering wife, as do Yoko Maki and Riri Furanki as the Saikis, who have raised son Ryusei (Shogen Hwang) and two other children without the benefit of Ryota’s financial affluence, yet also apparently without his micro-managing approach to childrearing.

The dilemma of choosing whether to “exchange” sons might seem an invitation to a soap-opera approach, but Kore-eda deftly avoids such pitfalls in a refreshingly clear-eyed, credible fashion that never lapses into melodrama. Like Father, Like Son is a tremendously effective – and affecting – work, worthy of its international acclaim. (In Japanese with English subtitles) Like Father Like Son is scheduled to open Friday at a/perture cinema in Winston-Salem. !