“Like Father, Like Son”: Who Is More Your Son?

Hirokazu Kore-Eda's moving Like Father, Like Son presents an impossible conundrum: wealthy, Type-A businessman Ryota (Masaharu Fukuyama) and his wife, Midori (Machiko Ono), discover that their 6-year-old son Keita (Keita Ninomiya) is not biologically theirs, having been switched at the hospital with the son of Yudai (Rirî Furankî) and Yukari (Yôko Maki), a less affluent, more earthy couple. (Why the switch happened isn't really something that needs to be explained, but Kore-Eda gives us an explanation anyway, via a shocking courtroom revelation.) Shopkeeper Yudai isn't as ambitious and/or accomplished as Ryota, but he's also a more loving father to Ryota's biological son. Should they exchange children? As much as anything, Like Father, Like Son is a look at the class system in Japan, a sort of genteel slobs vs. snobs comedy that doesn't really judge either side. While it focuses primarily on Ryota's seldom-externalized internal conflicts, it's also one of the rare “fathers and sons have issues” movies in recent memory that doesn't entirely sideline the female characters. Kore-Eda's direction emphasizes DNA-like spirals — including a POV drive through twisty Japanese freeways that evokes the infamous “flight” scene in Andrei Tarkovsky's identity-puzzle Solaris. Like Father, Like Son also suggests that pretending to shoot each other is a popular family game in Japan. Whatever works.

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