LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON (Hirokazu Kore-eda). 120 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (March 7). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNNN
Here's the problem with being the director of After Life, Nobody Knows and Still Walking: when you deliver a movie that's very good instead of great, you risk looking like you've stumbled.
That's the situation with Hirokzau Kore-eda's Like Father, Like Son, a languid domestic drama about a successful Tokyo architect (Masaharu Fukuyama) and his wife (Machiko Ono) who discover that their six-year-old son was switched at birth with another couple's.
As the pair try to figure out the best possible resolution to the dilemma with the couple now parenting their biological child (Lily Franky, Yoko Maki), the impossibility of a perfect solution gives the movie its empathetic structure - concerned, dense with possibility, a little nervous about how to move forward.
It ultimately pays off in a series of lovely, understated scenes, but getting there is rougher than it ought to be. Kore-eda spends much of the midsection waiting for people to act on their feelings. It could be argued that he does so because his characters aren't ready to address them, but there's a lumpiness to that chunk of the movie that could have been avoided.
Steven Spielberg bought the remake rights last year. Ten bucks says Ben Affleck plays the lead, with Paul Giamatti as the working-class other father.