12/30/2013 04:28 pm ET Updated Mar 01, 2014

Popcorn Preview: Like Father, Like Son

Like Father, Like Son (2013) "Soshite chichi ni naru"
Cast includes: Masaharu Fukuyama (Ryomaden), Machiko Ono (The Best Divorce), Yoko Maki (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift), Riri Furanki (All Around Us)
Writer/Director: Hirokazu Koreeda (Nobody Knows. I Wish)
Genre: Drama (120 minutes) Japanese with subtitles
Expected release: January 17, 2014

At the school interview, 6-year-old Keita talks about summer and flying kites. "He hasn't changed... he takes after his mother," says Ryota, his father. Ryota is ambitious and hard working. When he goes into the office on Saturday, he meets his boss, who's on the way out. "Your good work frees me up," he says as he leaves. Nevertheless, there's the site plan for that big project in Shinjuku to work on. "Ryota thinks he should work hard now rather than struggle later," Midori says, trying to explain why her husband is never home. Meanwhile, Keita is home from cram school and he's supposed to be practicing the piano. He obviously has no talent for it, but Ryota doesn't want him to be a quitter. "Kindness is a fault," says Ryota when Midori thinks he's being too strict.

Out of the blue, there's a call from the hospital where Keita was born. "They said they wanted to talk to us," says Midori. "I hope it's nothing messy," says Ryota. He's already in a mood because he has to take time off work. Sitting in the administrator's office, they can hardly believe what they're hearing... babies switched. It used to be a common problem, but in 1969 they started writing the names on the babies' feet in magic marker. They don't know how it happened, but the other boy had to get a blood test, and the DNA didn't match. Anyway, when Keita's results come back, it's confirmed. "Now it all makes sense," says Ryota. Emotions run high, thinking about whom to blame... but more importantly, what to do. In the past, when this happened, the parents always decided to exchange so they'd get their real child back. But the boys are already 6, and it won't be easy. Anyway, they need to meet the other family.

It turns out that the Saiki family is very different. They're shopkeepers and they live above a small shop. They have three children, and their standards certainly aren't up to Ryota's. Yudai's motto is, "Put off until tomorrow whatever you can." That's not going to do. As usual, Ryota feels it's his place to take charge... "It'll be fine. Leave it to me." And as usual, Midori feels she has to let him... but the Saikis find Ryota's parental instincts wanting. There are a lot of opinions flying around, complicating things... and what about the boys? After all, "They're not pets." Like Father, Like Son is a lovely family drama with many difficult moments, yet it's always handled in a sensitive low-key way. If this were an American drama, some answers would be predictable, but we can't make value judgments based on American norms, so it keeps us guessing. Like Father, Like Son was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and has done very well in other festivals. As it turns out, there are various possible solutions regarding the sons... but first, there's the issue of the fathers.

3 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
When two families learn that their 6-year-old sons were switched in the hospital, they have a life-altering decision to make

Popcorn Profile
Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Style: Neutral - Gentle
Distribution: Art House
Mood: Neutral
Tempo: Cruises Comfortably
Visual Style: Unvarnished Realism
Nutshell: DNA vs family attachment
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought Provoking

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