Nominated for the Palme D'or, 'Like Father, Like Son' (its original Japanese title, 'Soshite Chichi Ni Naru') was instead a deserving winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. Hirokazu Kore-eda's beguiling drama examines a situation whereby a hospital error results in two children being given to each other's parents - a fact that only comes to light six years after its occurence.
The news has severe ramifications for two very different families, both of whom are left with the difficult yet seemingly inevitable decision that they must give away the child they have raised in exchange for their biological son. For corporate taskmaster Ryoto Nonomiya (Masaharu Fukuyama), "now it all makes sense" as he understands why his son Keita (the adorable Keita Ninomiya) shares neither his looks nor traits. Keita settles in nicely with his biological parents and siblings, whose lower class stature is frowned upon by Ryoto.
Ryoto, on the other hand, struggles to look after Ryusei, who feels considerably more contained in his lonely inner-city abode compared to the freeing nature of his previous populous suburban home. Ryoto's wife (Ono Machiko) shares similar feelings of loneliness, particularly missing Keita, while her husband continues to work long hours despite their fragile family situation.
'Like Father, Like Son' is dominated by an understated sadness that runs throughout the film - the situation is one that none of these characters deserve. Writer-director Kore-eda plays out the sadness expertly, as we discover inner truths and the context of their actions, and enjoy the occasional (much-needed) dose of humour. The final lessons that (we and) the characters learn are perhaps fall on the predictable side but the journey to get there provides us with a beautiful tragedy.
'Like Father, Like Son' premiered in the UK at the BFI London Film Festival 2013. The film is out now in UK cinemas through Arrow Films.