Hirokazu Koreeda's Like Father, Like Son is a delicate but daunting tale, one whose quietly self-contained story manages to churn great waves of emotional complexity.
The set-up is a popular literary and cinematic plot contrivance: the switched-at-birth trope. But it is acted out in movingly stark relief in this story that also encompasses notions of nature-vs.-nurture, the distance between social classes and what fatherhood really means.
The story centers on Ryota (Masaharu Fukuyama), an architect who is also a striver, in the strongest tradition of modern Japan. He works what seem to be endless hours, sparing little time for his wife Midori (Machiko Ono) or his son, Keita (Keita Ninomiya). Not that he doesn't have expectations for Keita; indeed, far from it.
The film starts, in fact, with the family at an admission interview for an expensive preschool for the 6-year-old. Ryota has his young son on a regimen of piano lessons and other extracurriculars; the kid seems to have nary a spare minute in the schedule his father has set. It's all encompassed in a shiny, seemingly comfortable lifestyle in a spotless apartment well-situated in the city.
But a phone call changes everything: The hospital where Keita was born informs them that, in fact, Keita and another infant had been switched at birth by a nurse (whose agenda had nothing to do with either family personally). Now what?
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