Abbas Kiarostami (Certified Copy, Close Up) is an acclaimed Iranian filmmaker whose latest effort is the Japanese dramatic film Like Someone in Love. The film is at first glance a quite simple story but the style and craft of the film (as well as it's script, which is open to some different interpretations) makes it an interesting and effective if also highly unusual effort. Nominated for the prestigious Palme de Or at the Cannes film festival, Kiarostami's Like Someone in Love is an unusual character-based drama.
Told almost in a real-time style of filmmaking, all scenes occur in sequence and are done throughout the film with long shots, slow pacing, and often steady camera-work which is something that gives the film a sense of happening as the story is unfolding over a day. It actually all occurs over a 24 hour period. This is an unusual style for many films, but the filmmaking world has a small number of director's who like to experiment with this style: Kiarostami does this artistic endeavor with this exact directing language at his employ for helping to tell this story. His camera almost acts as if it's a part of the story itself, not as if actually helping to tell the story is the aim. The methodical filmmaking style is effective if startlingly clinical at times with a cold detachment which seems designed to simply let the characters unfold almost as if there is not a director involved.
There are only a few central characters in the story. The film begins at a restaurant where a young woman is having a conversation on the phone with someone she is having a strong disagreement with. It sounds like an unusual argument with a jealous boyfriend. The direction and photography resides on some of the individuals in conversation at the restaurant and upon a nearby individual who appears to be a friend to the girl on the phone. Yet one doesn't even get to see who is having the conversation for a large segment of the opening sequence. Then there is an older man who approaches the table. He begins a conversation that makes it clear that he is some kind of pimp, and that the girl who was on the phone is a call-girl. He tells her she has to go to an elderly man's apartment that evening.
The camera finally show's up the young woman. Her name is Akiko (Rin Takanashi), and she is vehemently opposed to the idea. She says no but the man at this table walks her outside, hands bills to a cab-driver, and sends her on her way. The film spends an enormous amount of time on the cab-drive. During the drive Akiko listens to a phone voice-mail. It becomes clear that she was avoiding her family. A close relative, her grandmother, had come to Tokyo to see her and she had been kept waiting all day at the train station for Akiko to show up. The messages are depressing because of the sweet-hearted nature of them and the sad expressions of regret from Akiko, who clearly wanted nothing more than to go and see her, yet it was clear she was too afraid to go to the station. Yet she asks the cab-driver to take a detour to go to the station and circle around. At this point, it's clear Akiko can't actually tell if her grandmother is even there anymore. This scene is one of the most effective and well orchestrated ones in the entire film.
Upon arriving at the apartment, Akiko meets the elder man who she was sent to. His name is Takashi Watanabe (Tadashe Okuno), who is a retired school professor. Akiko soon learns a couple of things about him. Takashi was once married and has a now grown-up daughter. It becomes clear that he is living alone. She condensates with him and discusses a painting he owns, which she also had growing up. Takashi offers her a homemade dinner he made that specifically was prepared because he knew something about her growing-up background. It surprises Akiko, and she also declines the meal and quickly goes to sleep. At this point, the storytelling begins to suggest that Takashi was more interested in companionship or even a person to talk to than anything else.
The next morning, Akiko is woken up by Takashi who learns about her needing to go to her college classes. He offers to drive her in to school. She joins him, and he offers to also take Akiko wherever she needs to go later in the day and he says that he will wait for her. When arriving at the school, Akiko runs into her boyfriend. He begins yelling at her and wants to prevent her from going to class. She deals with him and enters the school.
Waiting inside the car is Takashi, who sees the young boyfriend approaching him as the two glanced at one another - eyes meeting. Akiko's boyfriend starts a conversation and enters the vehicle. His name is Noriaki (Ryo Kase) and he believes Takashi to be her grandfather, who Noriaki assumes was visiting her. He had never met him or any of her family members. The conversation then begins... the two discussing Akiko and Noriaki asking for advice relating directly to his relationship with her. In these moments, Takashi begins to give advice which suggests that he thinks Noriaki is too young to know what he wants or to be a good husband. Awkward and complicated discussing continues and eventually Akiko returns from her class.
Over the course of the rest of the film, which plays out only over a few more hours, some time was spent in conversation between Akiko and Takashi - over her boyfriend, her work in school, and her future. Takashi seems to begin to literally take on the grandfatherly role ascribed to him from Noriaki. Yet the boyfriend soon discovers who he actually is, and the film's climax builds quickly and ends with a unexpected cut to black from the editing. I won't spoil the entire ending, that would need to be seen by the audience, but the majority of the film's final act is meant to be absorbed and thought about by the viewer as to a number of things: why is the film called 'Like Someone in Love', what was the story of Takashi's past family (there are subtle hints which are dropped in the second half of the film), and what sort of correlation and contrast is being built from writer/director Kiarostami between Takashi and Noriaki? The film wants to leave with questions on the audience's mind about these characters and it's part of the approach of this quietly minimalistic character-study.
The performances are quite strong from everyone involved in the film. Given that the film is one which mainly is comprised of three lead performances (Rin Takanashi, Tadashe Okuno, and Ryo Kase) each of these actors work well in unison to deliver these compelling, thought-provoking performances. The directing style is so minimalistic that much of the weight of the film is on these actors shoulders as they must make the characters compelling in order for the film to be successful. In terms of the approach given: the performances feel naturalistic and the story's a much more successful one because of these performers. The emotion and expressions of these actors is often so evocative of the characters feelings that without any dialogue a scene manages to be compelling based solely on their performances. This is one of the more impressive things to consider about this film.
When one factors in the cinematography and direction employed in Like Someone In Love, both elements in many ways feel like important backdrops that are intending to help the acting shine more than anything else. The filmmaking style blends into the storytelling seamlessly that it's almost as if the story simply unfolds. Like Someone in Love is ultimately both interesting and complex because of these remarkable performances.
The abrupt ending to the story is startling and unexpected. I do not expect most audiences to find it anywhere close to being an expected conclusion. There are ways in which the film left me a bit perplexed as there is a reasonable argument to say that the film ended without reaching a proper conclusion. Yet this is a worthwhile effort that has some compelling aspects which make the experience a quietly complex and memorable one which fans of dramatic, character-based filmmaking will certainly appreciate on numerous levels.
Like Someone in Love arrives on Blu-ray with a director approved 1080p HD MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer which retains the cinematography style as intended. Filmed using some Red digital cameras, which are extremely good at a number of things, including color accuracy, lighting detail, image depth, and stability... Like Someone in Love has a technically quite marvelous presentation that is highly accurate at representing the film and it's intended cinematography.
The 3.0 Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio presentation is encoded in 24 bit resolution, which allows for it to be quite impressive for a strikingly simple but effective audio presentation of considerable note for it's clean and crisp dialogue. The film's audio is strikingly sparse, too. However, there is little doubt that the film sounds exactly as it is supposed to with a highly accurate presentation. (Please Note: This 3.0 sound mix is encoded as 5.1 surround due to compatibility requirements with certain receivers.)
English subtitles are provided. This edition includes a new English translation which is impeccably subtitled.
This release contains a booklet featuring a essay by critic Nico Baumbach and a making-of feature documentary (45 min.), which is an in-depth look at the film's creation. It features extensive interviews (including with director Kiarostami) and behind the scenes footage.
Lastly, the original theatrical trailer for Like Someone in Love is provided.
Like Someone in Love is an interesting and
character-based drama from director Abbas Kiarostami. The performances
and help the film to become a significantly more compelling piece of
story is open to interpretation and the ending is abrupt, so it's
an entirely conventional effort, but the artistic merit of the film is
Like Someone in
Love comes with a recommendation, but I do suggest renting it
first. I am not
sure if the film will offer that much replay value for many audience
members even despite its effective techniques and quality performances.
Nonetheless, some viewers may want to add this release to their film
collection as the Criterion Blu-ray has a first-rate audio/video
presentation and a lengthy making-of documentary. This is a quality
edition that will please fans of the film.