Like Father, Like Son fits really comfortably into Hirozaku Koreeda’s filmography. It’s no Nobody Knows – not many are – but it has the family dynamics, kids at the forefront, and naturalistic lighting that the director favors. One thing that struck me immediately is that there’s very little handheld camera. The film feels choreographed (not that the others aren’t, but a static/smooth camera seems to belie naturalism in some way that handheld doesn’t).
Here’s a shot from the middle of the film. The camera starts low on the child toward the left of frame:
It slowly pans and tilts up, losing the child, and momentarily showing only white negative space -a large gulf between mother and son (meaningful within the “switched at birth” narrative here):
The camera eventually lands on Midori (Machiko Ono):
What struck me about this sequence is not only the aforementioned, smooth camera, but also the window in the background. This feels very much like a Koreeda moment. It’s very nearly blown out and the contrast between exterior and interior is huge. The light is soft but it’s also bold.
Koreeda then throws in two straight jump cuts, first to this small moment (no wonder he and the art director chose those drapes. Look at the second ghostly image below. It’s one of those that is both beautiful on its own and then certainly more so within the context of the film)-
-and then to this one, now more comfortable, and including less window:
These jumps cuts are odd. There aren’t many (any?) others in the film. Koreeda often feels so free with his transitions and these are a great example. I suppose that I would have been taught (and taught) to pick a style and stick to it. Going to use jump cuts? Use them throughout. But Koreeda just tosses them into this simple montage and then abandons the technique entirely. I don’t think these are jump cuts to reflect Midori’s “mental state” or anything so symbolic as that. They’re simply ways to move through time. Like Father, Like Son is notable for, among other reasons, how rapidly time passes. Occasionally Koreeda throws in a superimposed heading giving us the new month, but he also relies on moments like this one, where time quietly ticks away, jumping ahead one edit at a time.
These images below also look like most Koreeda films: the very soft foreground with a character approaching in the background; tight, crowded frames that are still well-composed; a fluorescent feel (see especially image 2 below) that seems both high-key and high-contrast; and, of course, children front and center:
I’m including these last two still images because I really like them. The first one is just a beautifully framed wide. I love how small the kids are in shot, and the deep black and green of the entrance on frame left. The painted balloons, the peeling paint feel so tangible. The second image is just cute and for many reasons already stated, could be attributed to Koreeda without context: