Beautifully played by the whole cast (including the charming child actors), this quiet, carefully-written drama resists the temptation for heavy speeches and gruesome sentiment
The best-known films of writer/director Hirokazu Koreeda (the meditative I Wish and the traumatic Nobody Knows) are all about families, children and how harsh reality is softened by love, no matter what, and his latest is no different, even if, in synopsis, it might sound somewhat soapier. Workaholic architect Ryoto Nonomiya (Masaharu Fukuyama) rarely sees his wife Midori (Machiko Ono) and little son Keita (Keita Ninomiya) but loves them both dearly. When Keita has a blood test prior to starting school and this reveals that the child isn’t theirs, the pair are shocked, and lawsuits and payouts are discussed while Ryoto and Midori meet and try to get to know storekeeper Yudai (Lily Franky) and his wife Yukari (Yoko Maki), a cheerful, working class pair whose eldest son, Ryusei (Shogen Hwang), is, of course, Ryoto and Midori’s lad. The funloving Yudai attempts to show Ryoto how much he loves the kids, while the women discover common ground and the children all happily take to each other immediately, but things threaten to get sour when the boys are ‘swapped’ over weekends, the court cases begin, snobby Ryoto finds it hard to keep his temper and he then unwisely hits upon an idea that might tear everyone apart: why not have both the boys, Keita and Ryusei, live with him? Or, in actual fact, live with Midori, as he’s never home due to his endless race to be a ‘go-getter’. Beautifully played by the whole cast (including the charming child actors), this quiet, carefully-written drama resists the temptation for heavy speeches and gruesome sentiment while also demonstrating that no one here is a villain or deserves to be left sorry and alone (something that runs through all of Koreeda’s films, which is probably the reason why they haven’t yet been remade in cheesy old America).