Like Father, Like Son Image

Generally favorable reviews - based on 33 Critics What's this?

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Generally favorable reviews- based on 17 Ratings

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  • Summary: The "switched at birth" urban legend and the Nature vs. Nurture debate provide Hirokazu Kore-eda with a fresh opportunity to revisit his ongoing preoccupation with family dynamics and parent-child relationships in contemporary Japan. The life of go-getting workaholic architect Ryota (Masaharu Fukuyama)—one of comfort and quietly ordered affluence with his wife Midori (Ono Machiko) and son Keita (Keita Ninomiya)—is violently overturned when hospital administrators reveal the unthinkable: Keita is not his biological son. Due to a mistake made by a negligent nurse, his "true" son has been raised in the dishevelled but warm-hearted home of working-class shopkeeper Yudai (Lily Franky) and his wife (Yôko Maki). The different approaches of both couples to their excruciating dilemma and the gradual emotional awakening of the all-too-rational Ryota are at the core of this sensitive drama of family feeling, which showcases Kore-eda’s rich sense of humanity. [IFC Films] Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 25 out of 33
  2. Negative: 0 out of 33
  1. Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    Jan 23, 2014
    Powered by Kore-eda's innate restraint and natural empathy, Like Father, Like Son takes these characters to places they never expected to be. It's unnerving for them, of course, but watching so many hearts hanging in the balance is a rare privilege for us.
  2. Reviewed by: Kevin Jagernauth
    May 23, 2013
    Hirokazu has crafted a warm and lovely film that suggests the easiest thing about raising a child is embracing how complicated it can be.
  3. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Feb 19, 2014
    This is a difficult film, one that asks questions that can’t really be answered. There are a couple of surprises along the way, but more than anything Koreeda is getting at what really makes a family a family.
  4. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Jan 17, 2014
    Despite the film’s emphasis on Ryota’s transformation, the most piercing moment for me came in the scene in which his wife anguishes over her guilt in not realizing right away, as a mother, that Keita was not her birth son.
  5. Reviewed by: Maggie Lee
    May 23, 2013
    The director retains his controlled style even as he moves toward a more traditional narrative mode.
  6. Reviewed by: Calum Marsh
    Sep 11, 2013
    The film is starved for the kind of nuance Kore-eda wields effortlessly elsewhere. What’s left without it is something merely schematic.
  7. Reviewed by: Andrew Schenker
    Sep 17, 2013
    The film scores all of its thematic points early, commenting intriguingly, if ultimately rather obviously, on the demands of Japanese patriarchy.

See all 33 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 4
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 4
  3. Negative: 0 out of 4
  1. Jul 15, 2014
    It’s hard to fault any filmmakers who approach a switched-at-birth tale with melodrama or humor in mind because the situation is ripe for either. That Koreeda deftly avoids it is a testament to his skills as both a screenwriter and a director. That’s not to say there is no drama; there is plenty of it. But it’s delicate and nuanced and looks deeper into parenting than the shock/reaction/aftermath approach of lesser films. Those lesser films are meant to be simply consumed; Like Father, Like Son is meant to be savored. Expand
  2. Feb 17, 2014
    The characters in this film seem very real - the workaholic father learns a great deal from the less affluent couple. Although the general construct (babies switched at birth) may seem like an urban legend, the great writing and acting kept me enthralled. Expand
  3. May 3, 2014
    I heard about this movie a few months ago but totally forgot about it, but then i saw it pass by, i decided to buy it and see how it was.
    i wasn't disappointed, this movie is so Beautiful and moving i didn't really know how to feel after this movie, sad, happy, depressed, I really didn't know.

    The acting is great you really start to feel strong emotions towards certain characters.
    If you like a movie with great writing and acting this is a must see, you'll love every minute of it.
  4. Apr 3, 2014
    ‘Can you really love a child without your blood’?

    What would you be willing to do for a child you barely know and never helped raise? This
    question haunts parents everywhere and is the main focus of Hirokazu Koreeda’s newest film Like Father, Like Son; a gut-wrenching family drama set on the basis of mixed identities, unwanted truths and the indefinite definition of happiness. Winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2013, Koreeda’s newest feature is sure to stir a pot full of mixed emotions.

    Ryota Nonomiya (Masaharu Fukuyama) is a determined Japanese business executive. He humbly avoids the spotlight, instead allowing his incomparable work ethic and determination to take the spotlight. He is irreplaceable professionally, but his marital life is in turmoil and he suffers failing relationships with his wife Midori (Machiko Ono) and son Keita (Keita Nonomiya). Ryota despises messy situations, so when he returns home to news of a phone call from the local hospital where their son was born, his only request is that developments won’t be messy.

    After extensive tests, Ryota and his wife learn that their son Keita was switched with another boy at birth. Ryota shelves his instinct to find out who and what is behind this mistake, and meets with the Saiki’s (Rirî Furankî and Yôko Makiwho), the people who have been raising Ryusei Saiki (Shôgen Hwang), Ryota’s son by blood.

    Devastated and determined to come up with a plan to ‘exchange’ the boys swiftly and without much emotional damage, the families agree to start switching the boys on weekends, gradually acclimatizing them to each of their new home environments.

    Although the film is set with the anticipation that the lives of both sets of parents would be showcased, Like Father, Like Son sets its sights on the Nonomiya family, focusing on Ryota; a professional who is driving his family up the class ladder in a socially driven Japan. Koreeda takes you through the different struggles of accepting the truth. At first, the Nonomiyas struggle with the reality of raising a son that is not their own. They then contemplate how they could fail to notice different physical features between father and son, suffering the cruelty of those who did notice. Ryota is the main focus of Koreeda’s scrutinizing observation while his wife Midori is left at the wayside. Koreeda seems fascinated by the idea of such a powerful and determined man grappling with such a rare, indescribable situation where no obvious victory is clear.

    Perhaps Koreeda sees a lot of himself in Ryota; the story is supposedly set around recent real-life events, although, the specifications of these factual events are never brought into the spotlight. For most of the movie, Ryota tries to fix his problems with his power, status and wealth. He immediately enlists the help of his old roommate, a powerful lawyer who wants to diffuse the situation as quickly and painlessly as possible, without ever providing Ryota with any emotional or paternal comfort. Like almost everyone in the Nonomiya family, Ryota must face the situation alone.

    Once Ryota takes the reigns on figuring out how to handle the situation, he finds that real power lies in his ability to connect with his family and disconnect from his professional life. As stern and composed as Ryota remains, he reveals himself to the audience as the most cowardly in the film by always looking to his professional life as a distraction from the conflicts in his personal life.

    In the first meeting between the parents, Koreeda introduces us to a blend of very bizarre comic relief, for a very morbid concept of grief. The majority of the comedy comes from the other father, Yudai (Furankî), an appliance repair man whose mantra in life is in stark contrast to Ryota. Yudai would rather put off a task until tomorrow. His initial idea to exchange the children as if they were simply pets, sets up a very optimistic man, but also a very flawed character. Yudai is anything but an absent father, spending most of his days making minimal sales at his shop (which also serves as the Saiki’s home), and fixing battery powered toys or flying kites with his children. Yudai is the man Ryota never wants to be, while also showing us the man Ryota never could be.

    Aside from their ambitions, the two families also differ greatly socially and economically. While the obviously lower classed family take baths together and spends their days playing together, the other family lives in an apartment that resembles a high class hotel. These little but quite obvious social differences also exhibits the film’s implicit question of nature versus nurture. It allows audiences to question whether the social classes of the families should matter, especially when talking about Keita going to the Saiki’s home. These small differences in their upbringing are never highlighted, but are always left lingering in the back of your mind.