Year Released: 2012
Distributor: The Criterion Collection/Sundance Selects
Running Time: 109 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 13+
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Certified Copy, Somewhere In the Middle, Adrift in Tokyo, A Separation, Taste of Cherry
-Like Someone In Love is the 2nd narrative film from Abbas Kiarostami that wasn’t filmed in Iran, his penultimate film, and the last film he completed before he died.
-The movie is named after a jazz song written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke. The film even plays the Ella Fitzgerald cover of that song in the background when Akiko is first at Watanabe’s place.
-Akiko is played by Rin Takanashi. Interestingly enough, a good portion of her acting portfolio consists of tokusatsu as well as live action adaptations of manga. Her most notable role is playing Shinken Pink in Samurai Sentai Shinkenger (the original Japanese version of Power Rangers Samurai), two different Kamen Rider productions (Decade and W Returns), as well as being in the live action remake of Detective Academy Q.
-The lead cinematographer is Katsumi Yanagishima. His cinematographic talent has been featured in the 2003 Zatoichi remake, The Grudge 2, and Battle Royale.
Abbas Kiarostami made a Japanese language movie. He went all the way to Tokyo and Yokohama from Tehran to make something during the later part of his life. My head is still spinning from all of these facts. This was more surprising than Certified Copy which could’ve easily been mistaken for a fully European film. Seeing his stuff without a lick of Persian/Farsi is surreal, but Kiarostami knew what he was doing at the time when it came to making films. It had also been a long while since I watched a live action work that takes place in Japan mainly because most of the Japanese media I cover is anime. Reviewing live action Japanese movies isn’t new to me because I’ve covered works such as Who’s Camus Anyway?, Battle Royale, Ringu, and multiple films from Akira Kurosawa to name a few. Seeing a Japanese movie made by an Iranian filmmaker was certainly going to be something worth watching to see how it would play out.
Is this another classic or is this lost in translation?
Like Someone In Love takes place in the big city of Tokyo. There’s a university student from Fukuroi named Akiko Matsuda who majors in sociology by day, but is a call girl for high-paying johns at night. The problem is that she’s engaged to her boyfriend Noriaki Higuchi who is a self-made mechanic with a small garage who is very jealous despite not knowing about her prostitute side job. Akiko meets up with an elderly retired professor named Takeshi Watanabe. Instead of having sex, he is more enthused about making her dinner that night which she declines. He drives her back on campus the next day for a test and is spotted by Noriaki who believes he’s her grandfather even though he heard about his fiance’s grandmother being in town last night (Akiko avoided her calls and never met with her at the train station). Watanabe plays along and Noriaki wants his blessing for their marriage even though the former professor doesn’t think those two are marriage material. The much older person had concerns when he saw him push Akiko a bit when she went upstairs, but she returns after finishing her test. The three of them are in Watanabe’s car which was meant to be for a trip to the bookstore, but things get very complicated when the car has issues and some truths eventually come out.
This alongside Certified Copy has to be one of the most normal Abbas Kiarostami works I’ve seen so far. That’s not to say it’s too mainstream or anything, far from it. That director’s fingerprints are still over it despite the Japanese location. There’s a lot of long takes, and alternating shots that happen to take place in cars (Taste of Cherry is way more influential than I gave credit for even if he did make that film). This has a contemplative an understating feel much like the other movies I’ve seen of him. I also noticed how few locations there were outside of the driving scenes. Like Someone In Love makes Certified Copy look like an Indiana Jones movie in terms of locations filmed or “adventuring” around. The acting from the different characters was certainly well. I know those who watch Hollywood movies or (have to be really honest here) anime would find the performances to be too quiet with the exception of a couple of brief yelling scenes, but they felt natural to me. Rin Takanashi did a great job playing this shy and awkward student, but instantaneously becomes chatty around Watanabe. The retired professor surely comes off as someone who is sagacious with his long life, but has low key concerns about his reputation. Ryo Kase as Noriaki really played this jealous boyfriend very well. Anyone could’ve made him some one-note brute, but he is more complex than that as he does function well with his job even if there were subtle things like him joke-punching a mechanic who was much bigger than him that acted as foreshadowing for later on. Kiarostami is certainly a master at subtlety which I really appreciate when so many works can be overt or have no sense of nuance. The cinematography is no-frills, but still impressive with the clear shots, masterfully handled long takes, and there were some very intriguing scenes like Watanabe driving and the windshield has a big reflection of the blue sky. Even when Kiarostami isn’t being experimental, his visual production techniques still have a poetic tinge to them.
Like Someone In Love does break apart at times. I thought some background characters didn’t serve as much of a purpose like Akiko’s friend Nagisa for example. The subplot with the grandmother felt shorthanded and I thought it would’ve had a bigger role in the story without overtaking the Watanabe/Akiko issue. While I do appreciated the understated nature of this film, there were times where it gets too understated with long periods of silence or minimized conflict even with the complicated nature of the plot. Now, I have to get into the complex nature of the plot and characterization. Let’s talk about Akiko. She is prostituting herself behind her boyfriend’s back and no-shows when her grandmother took the train all the way to Tokyo while waiting for her all day. Noriaki is revealed to be abusive to her which is disturbing (rightfully so). Please don’t get me wrong, nobody should be abusing others. It gets really hard because the anger he has about his own fiance lying to him is very understandable. There’s a huge double standard in movies and even in real life with cheating and domestic abuse. I reviewed Scheherazade, Tell Me a Story which has a subplot of a woman murdering her cheating husband and she’s treated with sympathy even if she did have to serve jail time in backstory. But a boyfriend finds out his main squeeze is selling her body to high-class clients and punches her offscreen, yet this somehow absolves Akiko of her adulterous actions? Things get even more frustrating when he figures out that Watanabe lied to him about being her grandfather and how Noriaki fixes his car for free. It’s no wonder why he had the reaction he did in the final act even if he really went overboard. The ending was too ambiguous and adds to French movie stereotypes with something random in the end. Like Someone In Love does make sure the characters aren’t perfect, but it was too ambiguous with some of the morality. I’m not a fan of Noriaki being physically abusive, but Akiko is no better than he is for prostituting herself behind his back. Don’t lie, if the genders were reversed, then Akiko smash-mouthing him would’ve been cheered or be similar to the subject matter in songs like “You Outta Know” by Alanis Morisette, “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood, or a good portion of Beyonce’s break-up songs for crying out loud. I’m no relationship expert, but it’s safe to say not to cheat on your loved ones and not to abuse them. Maybe I’m just asking too much with these things.
This Japanese movie made by an Iranian director was a good watch although I wouldn’t call it breathtaking. The slower and subtle nature of this film does work well. It has an unpretentious atmosphere about it and it’s more accessible than most of his experimental works. However, I took umbrage with the ambiguous elements especially with the morality of the major characters. Seriously, if you have issues with Noriaki’s jealousy and abuse (the latter is totally condemnable), but you love the movie Chicago for example, then you’re a filthy hypocrite. Like Someone In Love isn’t something I would re-watch anytime soon, but it’s far from awful.
Adjustable Point System:
-Add 1-2 points if you like Abbas Kiarostami’s work.
-Add 1 point if you like J-drama films or series.
-Subtract 1-2 points if you want more overt storytelling.
-Subtract 2-3 points if you feel uncomfortable with both people in a relationship being wrong in a movie.
-Quality naturalistic acting
-Adept usage of subtlety
-Background characters fall by the wayside
-The relationship dynamics should’ve been handled better as it leans into gender double standards
Final Score: 7/10 points
Content Advisory: Like Someone In Love should be fine with teens and up even though this isn’t some over-the-top work. The main character is a prostitute, but there’s no sex scenes in it. She does undress, but one only sees the clothes being tossed on the ground and not Akiko’s body. There is some sexual innuendo with Nagisa’s joke about a millipede newlywed couple which I won’t provide context for. There’s one case of profanity, some drinking, and smoking, but nothing major in that regard. Domestic abuse does become a major plot point especially after Noriaki figures out Watanabe and Akiko’s lies.
All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Like Someone In Love is property of The Criterion Collection and Sundance Selects. The poster is from Amazon and is property of The Criterion Collection and Sundance Selects.