Like Someone in Love

© 2013 Ray Wong

The title of this indie Japanese film refers to a Frank Sinatra popular song, which one of the characters play during the movie. It also summarizes what the movie is about; but as romantic as it sounds, it's not what we expect.

Akiko (Rin Takanashi) is a young prostitute in Tokyo who is living a double life. She is having troubles with her boyfriend (Ryo Kase) who suspects Akiko is lying about many things. She also hides from her grandmother who travels to Tokyo just to see her.

Akiko reluctantly accepts a call from a "respected" client. Takashi (Tadashi Okuno) is a retired Sociology professor who's very well respected in the community. Strangely, however, Takashi is more interested in serving her soup and talking to her about art and music than having sex with her. When exhausted Akiko falls asleep, Takashi leaves her be and in the morning, offers to drive her to school.

Once there, Takashi meets Akiko's boyfriend, who suspects that Takashi is her grandfather.  The boyfriend confesses that he's deeply in love with Akiko but he doesn't trust her, and he believes that if he marries Akiko, she will have to answer to all his questions. Takashi tells him that love doesn't work that way. When one of her boyfriend's customers recognizes Takashi, Akiko begins to panic, thinking that she will be discovered. But Takashi promises her that everything will turn out just fine. Or so he thinks.

As the central character, Rin Takanashi is innocently pretty, demure, distant and distracted. She conveys well the inner struggle this young woman is feeling -- one who is not proud of what she does but seems to have no choice but put up the charade. Tadashi Okuno is solid as the kindly professor, whose gentle, grandfather-like way is rather confusing at first -- what is his intention with Akiko? -- until we learn more about him later. Ryo Kase is also effective as Akiko's edgy, rough, but seemingly devoted boyfriend.

Written and directed by Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami (Certified Copy), the film is an interesting concept about love of different kinds, set in modern-day Japan (and French-produced). Talk about an international undertaking. Surprisingly, Kiarostami effectively captures the Japanese contrasting culture -- one that is at once modern and old-fashioned, chaotic and ordered, erotic and respectable, misogynistic and generous. Kiarostami's character study is astute, detailed and yet subtle and understated.

The dialogue is sparse, and the actors get to convey a wide range of emotions and internal struggles by use of their facial expressions and body language alone. When there is dialogue, it serves to convey bits and pieces of information about the character. Sometimes that information seems rather heavy-handed in deliberate exposition (for example, the commentary by the nosy neighbor, or the discussion about a famous painting). At the same time, the information adds layers to the characterization and mystery, and we begin to understand what drives these characters to do what they do.

The first two acts of the film is a fine example of character study that intrigues us. Much is revealed in bits and pieces, gradually. And Kiarostami guides us with his languid camerawork and pacing, never rushing the plot to make a point. In fact, it is like a glass of fine wine -- we must take the time and study it, to really taste it to experience its delicacy.

Sometimes the long shots or purposefully extended shots of characters doing mundane things do seem to drag, however -- they don't really add to the story or the characterization. At 109 minutes, the movie feels long. And the story starts to falter by its third act, when it's clear that Kiarostami doesn't know how to end this delicate character study of love. The ending feels forced and abrupt, with no particular emotional payoff for the audience.

Despite its flaws and the disappointing third act and ending, Like Someone in Love, is delicate and smooth like the finest of wine, and it does succeed in showing the different aspects and faces of love in some of the most tenderest moments without being obvious. With a better ending, it could have been something we love.

Stars: Tadashi Okuno, Rin Takanashi, Ryo Kase
Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Writer: Abbas Kiarostami
Distributor: IFC Films
MPAA Rating:  PG-13 for violence and language
Running Time: 109 minutes 


Script - 6
Performance - 8
Direction - 7
Cinematography - 7
Music/Sound - 8
Editing - 7
Production - 7

Total - 7.1 out of 10.0 

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