Saturday, May 3, 2014

Movie Review: Like Father Like Son

What I love about being a member of Milwaukee Film is getting to see movies that I never heard of. So this month when they said we were seeing a Japanese film called Like Father, Like Son my first thought was this a remake of the Dudley Moore and Kirk Cameron movie from 1987. But it wasn't.  It was an emotional family drama directed by famed Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda. 

The movie focuses on Ryota a successful business men who sets high standards for his son.  After 6 years he and his wife find out that there was a mix up at the hospital and the son they have been raising isn't their biological son.   The realization of this has a major effect on their life.  Ryota is conflicted since the son they have been raising hasn't been living up to his high standards he thinks maybe his biological son will.  But his hopes a dashed when he finds out that his biological son  has been living with a poor family that don't do things quite the way he would like.  The decision is faced by both families do they just keep raising the kids they have been or do they swap and raise their biological kids?  At first they try it just for weekends.  Ryota's son Keita finds that the freedom in the fun loving house of the other family, while their biological son Ryusei finds their home cold and "like a hotel".

The synopsis sounds like made for TV movie.  Parents raise a kid for 6 years then find out that there was a mix up at the hospital and the son they have been raising wasn't their own.  Somehow Koreeda manages to keep the movie from feeling like a Lifetime movie.  It is very emotional and you really feel for the kids in the movie.  Ryota on the other hand just comes off a a uncaring man and I found that very frustrating.   His character is the stereotypical man who only cares about winning and his own blood.  As a dad myself I found this very upsetting and I got very angry with him as I could not imagine giving up my sons after raising them for six years.  The whole idea of just swapping them seems silly and not sure why anyone would go along with it.  Yet even with this incredibly unlikable character Koreeda kept the movie engrossing.  I found myself tearing up at parts and that had a lot to do the performance of the child actors.  There is such sympathy for them with this crazy situation and the fact they don't understand what is going on around them.

Overall 4/5 stars.  Despite Ryota being extremely unlikable and old fashioned the movie totally had me hooked and emotionally involved.  But couldn't give it 5 starts because his character made me so angry.

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