Kore-eda crafted a deftly layered and quietly moving exploration of complicated familial dynamics, especially in what it entails to be a “family”, in Life Father, Like Son. Examination of the patriarchal / feudal concept of blood relations vis-à-vis bonding over years of togetherness, along with the oft-stated juxtaposition of nature versus nurther, could have become contrived or trite in the hands of a more heavy-handed filmmaker; the Japanese auteur’s nuanced portrayal of these age-old topics, however, imbued them with both freshness and melancholy. Ryōta (Masaharu Fukuyama) is a successful architect who spends far more time with his work than with his soft-natured wife Midori (Machiko Ono) and 6-year old son (Keita Ninomiya). His carefully chiseled life, however, faces disruption when the hospital, where Midori had conceived, informs him that there was an inadvertent swap of babies with another couple who couldn’t be more dramatically different, viz. Yūdai (Lily Franky), a goofy, free-spirited slacker who runs a small shop and is an adept handyman, and his wife Yukari (Yōko Maki), a strikingly beautiful, emotionally strong and clear-headed lady. The two families clearly belong to disparate socioeconomic strata – the former stays in an upscale Tokyo apartment, while the latter resides in a ramshackle place in the outskirts – and this class difference, along with Ryōta’s masculine pride, formed two other strong thematic elements in the film. Ryōta could’ve easily denigrated into a one-dinemansional character; however, both Kore-eda and Fukuyama kept adding subtle emotional layers which gradually revealed his depths, vulnerabilities and hence his ability for redemption, even if Kore-eda’s allegiance was clearly with Yūdai. Soft usage of an organ-based score complemented the well-enacted film’s delicate mood and deliberate pacing.
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Genre: Drama/Family Drama/Urban Drama