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Switched at birth drama 'Like Father, Like Son' examines class conflict in Japan

Like Father Like Son


Upon viewing Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda's "Like Father, Like Son" one can get a glimpse at the story Steven Spielberg will have in mind when he eventually turns this into an American movie after his production company Dreamworks picked up the remake rights to the film.

Like Father, Like Son poster
Poster courtesy of IFC Films

"Like Father, Like Son" tells the story of Ryota ((J-pop star Masaharu Fukuyama), a successful upper-class Tokyo architect who works long hours to provide for his wife, Midori (Machiko Ono) and six-year-old son, Keita (Keita Ninomiya).

But when a blood test reveals Keita and another baby Ryusei (Shôgen Hwang) from a working-class family were switched at birth, both families are thrown together and forced to make a difficult decision.

Kore-eda's film examines class conflicts through its depiction of workaholic Ryota's lifestyle with that of Yudai (Franky Lily), a laid back and warm-hearted but poor working-class shopkeeper with a big fun-loving family.

Utilzing a very distinct cinematic approach that invokes the works of legendary Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu, the film also delves into the "Nature-vs.-Nurture" debate about how to raise a child.

The film's basic plot of babies switched at birth is nothing new to filmgoers, nor is its title, which was previously used for the 1987 comedy starring Dudley Moore and Kirk Cameron about a mysterious potion that switches the personalities of a buttoned up doctor and his laid back son.

Cinematically, Kore-eda creates a rich and poetic landscape upon which he paints a striking portrait of family dynamics and parent-child relationships in contemporary Japan.

However, the film feels rather longish, clocking in at two-hours and it will be fun to see how Spielberg and his writers handle the same premise with American actors.

As much as I hate to admit it, I'm actually looking forward to seeing the American remake of this award-winning foreign film.

Sundance Selects / IFC will release the original Japanese drama in U.S. theaters on Jan. 17 with digital and VOD release on Jan. 23.

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