The Review/Short Read/

Hump Day Movie: Like Father, Like Son

This Father's Day, watch a sensitive examination of parenthood from Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda

Jun 15, 2016

Father's Day is this Sunday. It's the time of year when one celebrates the paternal figures in their lives by purchasing them some sort of token of their regard, in the form of fishing rods or BBQ utensils. Or tools. Or a tie. Or a blender? I don't know, there are a lot of commercials right now telling me what gifts I'm supposed to buy for my dad. But for real: do people actually need multiple Nutri Bullets?

Why not avoid the summer sunlight and head to a darkened room to watch some films with dear old dad. Nothing says like "Father's Day" like handing over a copy of Hirokazu Kore-eda's exquisite 2013 drama Like Father, Like Son (which premiered at TIFF in 2013). It's time to get excited for a Sunday full of existential questioning of the true nature of fatherhood! I swear, it will be more enjoyable than it sounds.

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Like Father, Like Son begins with young parents Ryoto (Masaharu Fukuyama) and Midori (Machiko Ono) learning that their six-year-old son Keita is, in fact, not their own. After finding out that their true biological son had been switched at birth, they are faced with the reality that they have been raising another couple's child. They meet the couple in question and their real son, Ryusei, and so begins an exercise in opposites. While Ryoto and Midori are well-off, Yudai (Riri Furanki) and Yukari (Yoko Maki) are poor. While Keita is an only child, raised under the strict, cold tutelage of his upward mobility obsessed father, Ryusei is able to run wild, playing and joking with his siblings. Ryoto is initially disgusted with the family that has been raising his child. Deeply focused on his continued climb up the corporate ladder, their difference in class becomes a sticking point.

The parents decide that the biological children should be with their biological parents, and Koreeda masterfully crafts a heartfelt and honest examination of what it means to be a family. The director is skilled at capturing emotional resonance in both his mature and younger cast. Whether it's Midori's struggle with whether to return the son she's raised as her own to the mother that bore him, or the exceptional work of the child actors as they silently watch the adults in their lives decide their fates, the camera tracks and captures these silent moments. As the families spend more time together, Ryoto is able to come to terms with his own issues. Thanks to his obsession with money and mobility, he has alienated his young family, continuing a narrative that dominated his own childhood.

Like Father, Like Son questions the meaning of fatherhood, probing traditional masculine norms. It realizes that a father's true worth is measured in the love and emotional support they provide to their family, rather than their status in society. Families take many forms. In their highest and purest incarnation, they are simply individuals that are brought together by their love for each other. Kore-eda's film deftly captures this simple truth. Share it with your dad. And make some margaritas with that new blender.