LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE (Abbas Kiaro s tami). 109 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (April 12). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NNN
If it weren't for its final shot, Like Someone In Love would be a minor but lovely little character study. But there it is, and it ruins everything.
The film is Abbas Kiarostami's first feature after the magnificent Certified Copy, and though he's moved the story from Tuscany to Tokyo, the principle is the same. Once again, the lives of strangers intersect, and people assume new personalities on a whim just to see what will happen. There's also a lot of driving around in cars, but Kiarostami's been doing that for decades now.
The central relationship is between a young hooker (Rin Takanashi) and an elderly professor (Tadashi Okuno) who meet one night and negotiate an unusual arrangement. He's made dinner for her, but she's not hungry; instead, she goes to bed. In the morning, he drives her to college in the city, acting more like her grandfather than a john. When he meets her boyfriend (Ryo Kase), the role-playing continues.
It's all very elliptical and unfocused, but for a good long while that's part of its charm. Kiarostami is expert at the gradual reveal, letting his characters just exist in the frame and steeping us in their relationships and histories. But then there's the climax, which sends those characters speeding toward a jarring, atonal collision that sours everything that's gone before.
Honestly, if it had ended just five seconds sooner, I'd have been fine.