I had been sifting through the list of films featured at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival in the hopes of finding one that might pique my interest. For no especially good reason, I came across the Japanese entry “Like Father, Like Son” directed by Hirokazu Koreeda and after watching the trailer decided that I should give it a watch.
Like Father, Like Son follows the lives of two dynamically opposite families as they receive an unexpected phone call from the hospital with news that the sons they have been raising as their own for the last six years were in fact, swapped at birth. Throughout the film, the two families must struggle with the decision of whether to swap their children, all the while re-evaluating their roles as parents and the impact they have on their sons.
This film presented a rather fresh perspective to family drama genre, as the main themes of the film revolved around the parental relationship, and what it means to be a “good” father. It was interesting to see this be the main focus of the film, as I can’t bring myself to think of any films I’ve seen that centre on father-son relationships quite like this. What made this film interesting was that I imagine that some of the family dynamics featured in the film are incredibly reflective of many real-life familial relationships. The main family that is followed in the family for instance consists of a very driven, wealthy businessman (Ryota) who places priority on his work over spending time with his family. As he strives to follow his high ambitions, he struggles to understand his son, who at an early age fails to exhibit the same level of drive and competitiveness that the father hopes to see. This revelation of the hospital accidentally swapping babies has a lasting influence over the entire family, with past tensions and conflicts between all family members being brought back to the surface.
The two fathers of the families are starkly contrasting with their approaches to raising children. Ryota (as mentioned in the above paragraph), is more concerned about raising a successful son, one that takes after him and bring honour to his name. This differs from the second father, Yudai, an older-aged tinkerer from a modest-sized family who shows a much more loving and vibrant presence in his children’s lives. As the two families become well-acquainted with each other and torment over the decision of whether to swap children or not, perspectives and attitudes about fatherhood clash and transform to bring us to the satisfying conclusion of the film.
While the premise of the film seemed somewhat implausible to me – would people really swap children after they’ve been raising them for 6 years? – the way the film grappled with this concept was in my opinion, rather well-executed. I’ll admit that I didn’t quite understand how throughout the majority of the film, the families could so easily brush off thinking about the feelings of the sons that would undoubtedly be affected from being torn away from the parents that raised them. Apart from some occasionally interjected comments like “They aren’t pets!”, I was baffled that these parents thought that they could potentially swap children without any serious repercussions (this was mended towards the conclusion of the film).
This film was shot beautifully, with the cinematography being one of the highlights of the film. Many of the more dramatic scenes in the film were enhanced by the really impressive filming (I can’t say I know all much about this). The dialogue was fantastic I think, and there were so many powerful lines that encapsulated the major themes of fatherhood, blood ties and family. I was so impressed by the child actors as well, who were equally good in terms of delivering some meaningful dialogue.
I liked this film. The concept of it was straight-forward, a little unbelievable for me, but its execution was equal parts touching and thought-provoking.