Movie Review
Like Father, Like Son
Like Father, Like Son poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published February 1, 2014
US Release: January 17, 2014

Directed by: Hirokazu Koreeda

Running Time: 120 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $16,500
107 of 111
Itís movie-of-the-week drama with little moments of cuteness and packed with art-house pretentiousness.
Foreign filmmakers need to learn the art of actually entertaining an audience. I usually hate foreign films and usually avoid them for a while because in the theater I fear intense boredom and want to be able to turn it off if Iím not onboard immediately. For me, part of the frustration is that these films have to grow on you rather than getting you instantly and you have to wait a while for the stories to play out. For me, films are supposed to get you immediately if they are good and waiting for it makes a harder sit. With foreign, you also have to read all the dialogue as it plays out and I rarely find the dialogue interesting. With a regular film, you can at least hear the words in English and donít have to study the written words as it plays out. With a foreign film, you have to follow everything very closely, and if itís not working for you, it turns into a very grueling experience. If youíre bored by reading the written word, you feel the need to stop reading entirely, and if you stop reading, you lose touch. Losing touch means you halt all of your participation and end up just counting the clock until everything is over. This means you lose touch with the written word and stop paying attention and that means itís game-over. Thatís what happened while I watched Like Father, Like Son, and it made me hate foreign films even more than I already did.

The film can be summed up very simply without needing to go on and on in analysis, and it strives to be a heavy intellectual piece which is the sad part about the first part of this sentence. Itís about a rather young Japanese couple who find out that their child was swapped after they had given birth in the hospital. Theyíve been raising a certain child for 6 years now and they set out to meet their actual 6-year old who has been raised by another Japanese couple. They meet the couple fostering their real child and the entire film is about the dynamics between the two. The two different families spend a lot of time together and they contemplate which 6-year old to raise. One father is extremely by-the-book and rigid and probably shouldnít be a father with the way he is, and the other father is the polar opposite and is like a child himself when he interacts with either children. The by-the-book father has a wife who is the opposite of him and actually has skills with raising kids. The film is a slice-of-life on parenting within the Japanese culture and begs you to question which kid should end up in which hands from now on.

Itís absolutely riveting material for two hours and I couldnít believe this film was going on for two hours. Iíd call it a Lifetime movie of the week but foreign films happen to take on the illusion of being more mature fare, and something like this would be weird if it had gone straight to television. It wants to demand your attention and beg you to discuss parenting themes and it doesnít actually preach. What it does is sit in limbo for most of the time with redundant storytelling going over the same things repeatedly. We know the two main characters are a strange match and that the man is lucky to have his wife because itís an opposites-attract situation and having kids isnít his strength. He has certain skills in being a father but he looks really bad when the other father is hanging around. We spend a lot of time with his negativity and strictness and we have to wonder why he became a dad.

Like a lot of foreign films, it takes itself way too seriously and there is no comic relief. The only attempts at humor are unnecessary cute moments which happen as a result of the kids. The kids behave silly and goofy and this is the only attempt at lightening up the heavy drama that ensues. Thereís no entertainment which is perhaps my biggest complaint about the film. Films need to entertain you on some level, especially to sell at the box office, and this film completely ignores entertainment value. Itís movie-of-the-week drama with little moments of cuteness and packed with art-house pretentiousness. It wants to feel important in tone, really important, and the problem is that its story is extremely clichť.

I donít watch the Lifetime channel or anything similar but such a premise is everywhere on basic TV. Itís essentially a soap opera in a foreign film language, and because itís foreign, itís convinced it is essential. It couldíve easily been just average or mediocre but its self-importance makes it dreadful to sit through. I was groaning throughout most of the running time and wanted to leave the theater. It also tricks you into thinking it could end a few times, and I kept hoping each fade-to-black was the end. The only thing that kept me from leaving was that this happened to be part of a weekly program I attend every movie season, and the price of going is costly and Iíd feel guilty for leaving the theater. The moderator at this program booked it because of its important story and I couldnít have disagreed more.
Lee's Grade: D+
Ranked #107 of 111 between In Secret (#106) and (#) for 2014 movies.
Lee's Overall Grading: 3025 graded movies
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