ASIAN FILM - Article
16:00 - 25th January 2014, by David West

Like Father, Like Son

NEO's David West talks to Hirokazu Kore-eda about parenting, working with children in his award winning drama Like Father, Like Son, and why he doesn't like endings.

Hirokazu Kore-eda's Like Father, Like Son is the story of two families who discover that their children were swapped at birth in the hospital where they were delivered. For six years, architect Ryota (Masaharu Fukuyama) and his wife Midori (Machiko Ono) have been raising little Keita (Keita Ninomiya), only to discover he is not their biological offspring.

Meanwhile, six-year-old Ryusei (Hwang Sho-gen) has been raised by scruffy shop owner Yudai (Lily Franky) and his wife Yukari (Yoko Maki) alongside their other kids. Now they face a difficult choice - should the families swap children, to reunite the kids with their biological parents, or should each couple keep the boy they have grown to love?

The movie topped the box office in Japan earlier this year and won the Jury Prize at Cannes. The idea for the story was planted in Kore-eda's mind by his own experiences of fatherhood. "For the last film I shot before this one, I Wish, I spent a long time filming in Kyushu and I was away from home for over a month at a time," says the director. "My daughter was three, and when I came home after a long period away, we had a very nervous and tension filled evening. I felt that in her mind, her memory of me as her father had been completely reset. The following morning when I was leaving she said, 'Come again, please,' rather than 'Bye bye, daddy,' so that really shocked me. It made me feel that unlike her mother who spends a lot of time with her, being a father there is a big difference in not spending much time with your child. That made me think about the role of fathers, and the time you spend with children."

After its success at Cannes, Steven Spielberg purchased the rights to make an American version of Like Father, Like Son. In the hands of a director as thoroughly mainstream as Spielberg, best known for his big budget blockbusters, it is hard to imagine Kore-eda's penchant for ambiguity surviving intact. But he's not too worried about that. "That will be very interesting to see," he says about the prospect of an American remake. "If that does change, it only goes to show the difference in cultures so I can look forward to seeing how they treat the story and enjoy it."

Like Father, Like Son is out on DVD and Blu-ray in February 2014 from Arrow Films

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