Review: Like Father, Like Son


Switched at birth is a plot that we have seen so many times but the Japanese Drama “Like Father, Like Son” (そして父になる, Soshite chichi ni naru) by Cannes Film Festival 2013’s Jury Prize winner Hirokazu Kore-eda (Air Doll, 2009) has something more than ordinary in this less than ordinary life shared by the two families. The film moved so many professional viewers in Cannes 2013, that the jury president Steven Spielberg hasdhis company, DreamWorks Studios, require the rights to remake this film in Hollywood.


Keita, a happy kid, is celebrating his 6th birthday with his parents Ryota Nonomiya and Midori in a modern, upscale apartment in Tokyo.  Ryota, the father, is an ambitious businessman who believes in hard work, a winner attitude, and pushes Keita to be just like him. But no matter how hard he’s trying or how patience he is with Keita, the result just never comes close to he’s expectations. One day, a school entrance blood test reveals that the hospital has accidentally switched Nonomiya family’s son to Saiki family’s son.


The two pairs of parents meet and agree on how to exchange their sons back without causing too much of pain to their sons, but the transition obviously causes as much pain to the parents as to their kids.  Can parents love a kid of others? How can parents let go of a kid that they love to a total stranger environment and believe that the new family can take care of him better than they have done? When Ryota’s biological son Ryusei runs back to his old home, Ryota and his wife Midori realize that eventhough Saiki family only owns an old little convenience store in a lost suburban area, with two other kids on their charge, the Saiki family is happy and the parents are loving and joyful.


Ryota, played by one of Japan’s most recognizable positive figures, signer and actor Masaharu Fukuyama, who portraits the perfect cold and calm father who is frustrated by his expectations, relieved that Kaita is not his own but contradicted to let him go and at the same time learn to accept a son of his own that he has never met. Ryota has never really broken out, nor does the scenario ever feels too clear even until the very end, which is beautifully done and leads the story to a continuation for audience to imagine.  Fukuyama’s acting skill has earned him many Best Actor nominations at the Japanese Academy and at film festivals around the world. The little boy playing Keita Nonomiya, Keita Ninomiya, was also nominated as Best Newcomer at Asian Film Awards this year.


We maybe know this TV-series-like story by heart and know what’s going to happen, or be said, while we are watching this movie, but the children subject expert director Kore-eda, smartly directs the audience to attach to the characters one by one and delicately build the contrast of the two families from two different worlds without the unnecessary drama and the obvious cliché, and we can’t help falling for them, pinch our hearts and wipe our tears until the end of the film.

– Shumaï Chou