A very, very powerful film about what it really means to be a father.

When this film begins, you see what life is like for a boy whose father is very successful and well respected by modern Japanese standards.  The father is exceptionally well paid, powerful and driven.  And, like most Japanese men in the corporate world, he expects great things from his son.  The boy is forced to take piano lessons, get tutoring in his school subjects for several hours a day and achieve greatness like his father—which is not at all unusual for children from such families.  However, the boy is only a kid and he’s also miserable.  As for the father, he is a bit disappointed that the boy isn’t as driven as he is—though with such impossibly high standards you wonder if any son would measure up to the man’s standards.

Like Father, Like Son
Written & Directed by
Hirokazu Koreeda
Cast
Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Yôko Maki
Release Date
2014
Martin’s Grade: A

So, when the family receives word that their son is really not their biological son (as he’d been switched with another at the hospital), it naturally throws their lives into complete chaos.  Now the families need to decide what to do.  Do they simply keep their children as they are now?  Do they share the boys?  Or, do they switch them so that they are with their biological parents?  It’s a wonderful dilemma to explore that is made all the more interesting since the other set of parents are poor and are almost nothing like the corporate family.  And, for this particular father, it is a dilemma HE must solve alone as he knows best….or so he thinks.

Like Father, Like Son is a wonderful example of a film about real people and real problems. Director Hirokazu Koreeda helms this thought-provoking film about these two families.  In such a case, which child would you keep?  This is the big question in the film—at least at first. However, the film is about far more than this dilemma–and that is why I love this movie.

Instead, the film really is about the rich man’s journey from a cold, corporate over-achiever to becoming more human as a result of this tragedy. I could say more as well as their decisions but think you should just see the film yourself. It has a lot to say about a lot of things–such as what constitutes good parenting and what actually constitutes success. My advice is to just see this film and see what messages it has–there are plenty and the film is an interesting critique about Japanese life and childhood—especially since Like Father, Like Son seriously questions the traditional Japanese standards for success.  Exceptional writing, amazing acting and top-notch directing make this one of the best films I’ve recently seen from Japan.

Review by Lead Entertainment Writer & Film Critic, Martin Hafer

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