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Switched at Birth

‘Like Father, Like Son’ is a subtle masterpiece

February 25, 2014, 12:00 am

Life is going according to plan for Ryota (Masaharu Fukuyama) and Midori (Machiko Ono). He’s a successful executive and she’s a stay-at-home mother to their son, Keita (Keita Ninomiya), who’s 6, and about the sweetest little boy ever put before a camera.

Then comes the news: The hospital where Keita was born reveals that he was switched with at birth with another boy. Soon Ryota and Midori are meeting the other parents, their biological son, Ryusei (Shogun Hwang), lawyers and hospital officials, and deciding to switch the boys back so they’ll be with the correct sets of DNA.

Like Father, Like Son is the type of movie that could easily dip into saccharine, preachiness or finger pointing, but director Hirokazu Kore-eda is much more subtle. Fukuyama gives the quietest of tour de force performances, letting the slightest changes in his expression speak volumes as he deals with being overworked, being distant, and with his own relationship with his father and stepmother.

One of the nice surprises here is that there aren’t big blow-up moments or lots of shouting, but the emotional turmoil of each character is clear. In fact, the emotions build with such precision and understatement, you’ll wish you brought tissues.

Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda
With Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, and Keita Ninomiya
The Screen
116 min.


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