Like Father, Like Son initially centres around workaholic father Ryota Nonomiya (Fukuyama Masaharu), his put-upon wife Midori (Ono Machiko) and their 6-year-old son, Keita (Keita Ninomiya), with a family life that can just about be described as functional, as Ryota’s more concerned with looking to his future, than concentrating on the now, so misses out on a lot.
However, and in a tale that’s based on a true story, things are about to be blown apart as they get the devastating news that Keita is not their son, as something happened at the time, leading the hospital to switch the children at birth, and give both them and couple, Yudai Saiki (Frankie Lily) and his wife, Yukari (Maki Yôko), the wrong son, so the latter received the Nonomiyas’ son, who they called Ryusei (Shôgen Hwang).
What follows is a film that immediately makes you wonder how would you deal with something like that, with someone else raising your child? It’s all very well for the authorities to say that at that age, children can adapt quite easily, but what about the stresses and the divisions it causes between the parents?
The head-strong Ryota is seen talking down to Yudai, even though the latter is more of a ‘father’ than Ryota has ever been.
I can say without spoilers, that I do think they handle the initial sleepovers wrong. I expected one boy to stay with the other family for one night, and then vice versa to happen the next, so both boys are together. That way, the family can make it look like they’re friends who have to get to know one another. But no… Keita stays with the other family at the same time that Ryusei is staying with them. That’ll just appear weird to all the kids, as the other family have two other children.
I’m not a parent, but Koreeda still manages to get every last ounce of anguish from those parents panging into me as if the power of my PS4 playing the disc depended on it. I found this utterly gripping, the only problem being that you want to see how things worked out in the years following the movie’s conclusion.
It was amusing seeing Ryusei playing a Donkey Kong Game & Watch, since that’s exactly the same thing I had in 1983.
And in the grandmother role, Sweet Bean‘s Kirin Kiki loves her sweet bean cake, too 🙂
Finally, one comment which I’ll place inside a spoiler tag, since it might be a possible spoiler if you haven’t seen it, but this is only part-way through the film, so don’t think this is the end of the matter.
Naturally, what I refuse to do is tell you who ends up with who – since there will be some who want to ask, but half of what grips you is in finding out.
(click on the image for the full-size version)
The film is presented in the original 1.85:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition, and the picture is a little bit soft, but then it was shot on 35mm rather than going for digital like most directors at the time and beyond, so kudos for sticking to an original format such as that, and it still looks decent.
The audio options include a DTS HD-MA 5.1 soundtrack as well as a 2.0 surround sound one, but while I chose the former, there’s nothing of note that stood out for me, as it’s a gentle drama.
As ever, with Arrow, there are a ton of extras on this boxset, and the ones for this film are:
- Family Ties Part 2 (11:34): A brand new interview about this film with director Hirokazu Koreeda, filmed at the BFI London Film Festival in 2016, and how it was his biggest hit at the time, in Japan and abroad, and how it helped him make other films which might not have happened had this one not been so successful.
- Nature vs Nurture (19:08): Film historian Alexander Jacoby talks about the film, giving his thoughts on it. This extra is split into 2 chapters.
- Selected Scene Commentary (67:43): The director with the two male leads, Fukuyama Masaharu and Frankie Lily, and while being just over an hour long, this is split into 18 chapters, which is more than the film! Come on, Arrow, give us more in the films!!!
- Like Father, Like Son in Cannes (22:35): Footage from the European premiere at Cannes in 2013, including a Q&A with both Fukuyama Masaharu and Hirokazu Koreeda. There are 3 chapters.
- Japanese Premiere Q&A (12:18): The director and key cast members all get to speak, at the premiere which took place on September 17th 2013, including the two boys.
- In conversation with Koreeda: Fukuyama Masaharu (43:02): Billed as a “teach-in” between the director, star and the audience after a film screening in Japan, in October 2013.
- Wrap footage (6:08): Everyone prepares to say goodbye once it’s all done.
- Trailers: Five trailers (0:36, 0:56, 1:44, 0:17, 0:32), so, a range of TV trailers and theatrical ones.
This is just the extras on the disc, but the boxset also contains reversible sleeves featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Corey Brickley, for each film, plus a 60-page Collector’s book featuring new writing on all three films.
The main menu features a short piece of the score set to clips from the film, there’s a bog-standard 12 chapters and subtitles are in English and in this case, they can be turned off, in case you can speak fluent Japanese.
Like Father, Like Son is part of the Hirokazu Koreeda Family Values Boxset and is out now on Blu-ray/DVD combo boxset, and check out the full-size cover by clicking on the packshot. The boxset contains I Wish, Like Father Like Son and After The Storm.
Running time: 121 mins
Distributor: Arrow Films
Released: February 19th 2018
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio
Widescreen: 1.85:1 (35 mm)
Disc Format: BD50 and DVD9
Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
Producers: Kaoru Matsuzaki and Hijiri Taguchi
Screenplay: Hirokazu Koreeda
Music: Takeshi Matsubara, Junichi Matsumoto and Takashi Mori
Ryota Nonomiya: Fukuyama Masaharu
Midori Nonomiya: Ono Machiko
Yukari Saiki: Maki Yôko
Yudai Saiki: Frankie Lily
Keita Nonomiya: Keita Ninomiya
Ryusei Saiki: Shôgen Hwang
Nobuko Nonomiya: Jun Fubuki
Riko Ishizeki: Kirin Kiki
Kazushi Kamiyama: Jun Kunimura
Ryosuke Nonomiya: Isao Natsuyagi
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.