If you’ve seen Hirokazu Koreeda’s films — Nobody Knows, Still Life, I Wish — then just the announcement that a new one, Like Father, Like Son, has arrived is all you need to know.
If not, catch this beautifully observed study of two families in modern-day Japan, of the relationships between parents and their children — and then go back and discover Koreeda’s other work. Small masterpieces, every one.
Like Father, Like Son, winner of the Jury Prize at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, finds a workaholic architect, Ryota (Masaharu Fukuyama) and his wife, Midori (Machiko Ono), living well in a high-rise apartment with their 6-year-old, Keita (Keita Ninomiya). The parents push their son to excel, prepping him for an admission interview to an elite school, giving him piano lessons, limiting his play time.
Ryota leaves early, returns late, works weekends, but when he is home, he is training, lecturing, shaping Keita in his mold.
And then a call from the hospital where Keita was born changes everything. Babies had been switched at birth. Another couple, a shopkeeper, Yudai (Rirî Furankî), and a fast-food worker, Yukari (Yôko Maki), have their son. And vice versa.
Like Father, Like Son explores the bonds between parent and child. Is DNA more important than love? Bloodline more essential than environment? How do class and culture and money work into the equation?
With gentle humor and piercing insight — and with deft and delicate performances from the four adults, and the ridiculously cute Ninomiya — Like Father, Like Son explores themes that are essential to us all.
Koreeda’s film is a small thing, but the emotions it elicits are big and deep and wide.
Cast:.Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Yôko Maki, Rirî Furankî.
Writer-director: Hirozaki Koreeda.
An IFC Films release. Running time: 121 minutes. In Japanese with English subtitles. Adult themes. Opens Friday Feb. 21 in Miami-Dade only: Miami Beach Cinematheque, Cosford Cinema.