Like Father, Like Son Blu-ray Review

Hirokazu Koreeda has been making films since 1991, but with I Wish and Like Father, Like Son, the director’s reputation in Europe and America has grown significantly, gaining much wider releases and more critical attention than he has previously enjoyed in the West. The fact that I’m writing about him is indicative of this growing awareness – he’s not just for a niche audience any more. With a film as gentle, heartfelt and moving as Like Father, Like Son, this is entirely justified. His films bear hallmarks of that vaguely defined term ‘arthouse’ – underplayed acting and restrained emotional beats, for instance – but are so sincere and humorous that they deserve to cross over that audience to be appreciated by far more people. If you are yet to discover Koreeda, now is the time.

Like Father, Like Son tells the story of a couple who discover that their bright, recently accepted into a major private school son may not be their own flesh and blood after babies were swapped over in the hospital. This revelation rocks the couple and forces them to confront their ideas about parenthood and family, a tension heightened by meeting the carefree, poorer family that has brought up their biological son. It’s a film anchored by a series of incredible, natural performances, not least of which from the two children caught up in the middle of it all. After I Wish, it would seem that Koreeda has a preternatural ability to coax powerful performances out of even the youngest actors.

The director’s style is, at first glance, charmingly ramshackle. Some scenes are poorly lit, others are overexposed, and the camera occasionally judders around in a budget-revealing fashion. It’s not an especially attractive film. Yet in the editing suite Koreeda excels, mixing up tempos and styles so that the apparent visual inconsistency matches the internal turmoil of the characters. This translates to scenes where a mother and son struggle to connect with each other edited via a series of fades to black, perfectly capturing the emotional dissonance of the scene. So where his technical ability sometimes feels somewhat amateurish, this is outweighed by his mastery of form as a way of depicting content. It’s subtle film making, but it’s also the reason it works so well.

Whether you notice such technical detail or not is largely irrelevant – Like Father, Like Son is an emotional triumph, accessible to all but the most blockbuster-addicted audiences and thoroughly thought-provoking, too. It’s a powerful film that leaves you appreciating your family and loved ones more than when you went in.

About The Author


Nat (or Nathanael as he calls himself when he wants to sound a bit classier) is a student based in Edinburgh who watches far too many animated films for a guy his age. He even has a blog. dedicated to the subject. When he's not doing that, he's the film editor of The Journal, Edinburgh and a committed member of King's Church Edinburgh. He likes Terrence Malick far, far too much.

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