Japanese writer/director Hirokazu Koreeda goes for High Concept ideas, even at the risk of putting himself in a dramatic straitjacket. His latest (LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON/’13) uses that oldest of standbys: Switched-at-Birth Infants while this earlier film extrapolates from a tru-life tale of four young siblings living secretly on their own after Mom splits for good. The story hints at prostitution as the cause of Mom’s departure, but all we know for sure is that the landlord doesn’t know about the three younger kids; financial resources are dwindling, no one’s in school; and the oldest of the bunch, at 12, is losing his sense of responsibility to fast creeping rebellious puberty. At almost 2 and half hours, Koreeda gives us too much time to think things thru, so as the tiny social order starts breaking down and the kids begin to stick their noses out of the apartment and bring in friends, the situation stops adding up. And when events take a tragic turn, sense & sympathy pull us out of the emotional involvement he wants to ‘double-down’ on. There’s lots of fine observational stuff in here, and an enchanting perf from Yûya Yagira as the oldest boy. But a couple of last act fumbles (the glowing warmth of camaraderie at a baseball game and a still-frame non-resolution) play with little conviction, as if even writer/director Koreeda had stopped believing in his script.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Yûya Yagira won Best Actor @ Cannes for this. He’s great, but there’s something not right about giving young kids big acting awards, non?