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Film / Like Father, Like Son

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Like Father, Like Son (original: Soshite Chichi ni Naru) is a 2013 Japanese drama film written, directed and edited by Hirokazu Kore Eda.

Ryota (Masaharu Fukuyama) is a successful Tokyo architect who works long hours to provide for his wife, Midori (Machiko Ono) and six-year-old son, Keita. But when a blood test reveals Keita and another baby were switched at birth, two very different families are thrown together and forced to make a difficult decision while Ryota confronts his own issues of responsibility and what it means to be a father. Like Father, Like Son extends the Japanese cinema tradition of familial exploration to deliver a gentle and moving story of personal redemption that playfully navigates its way through the drama.

(Not to be confused with a same-titled movie, about a "Freaky Friday" Flip starring Dudley Moore and Kirk Cameron.)

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Tropes:

  • Adult Fear:
    • The idea of finding out one day that the child you've been raising isn't biologically yours.
    • Your child running away from home.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When Keito asks Ryota if his new parents love him more than Ryota. The latter hesitates for a while before answering "yes".
  • Central Theme: Is family defined by blood or by bonds?
  • Cherry Blossoms: One scene has both couples and Keita in spring walking through a park lined with cherry trees.
  • Everyone Has Standards: It is hinted in earlier scenes that Yukari and Yudai wouldn't exactly mind having a
  • Family of Choice: One of the driving questions in the story is seeing if family can be one through blood or bonds.
  • Foil:
    • The parents, Yukari/Yudai and Ryota/Midori. The latter are wealthy but are new when it comes to parenting, while the former lack money but are experienced parents (having two other kids). The way both couples react to the whole situation is also filled with nuanced contrast: Yukari and Yudai, a working-class couple portrayed as more emotionally connected with their children, are of course troubled by the news that their son isn't biologically theirs and are willing to "exchange" Keita and Ryusei for a while, but it's clear that they consider Ryusei their son to the point that it doesn't matter that much to them; they seem more interested in getting some money as reparation from the hospital for the whole ordeal, and possibly getting to know Keita better, than anything else. For Ryota and Midori, however, especially the former, the reveal that Keita isn't biologically theirs is a big blow.
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    • The boys also work as foils to each other and their personality differences highlight their upbringings: Ryusei is a more obviously social, free-spirited boy, while Keita is comparably much more polite and well-behaved.
  • For Want of a Nail: The whole story wouldn't have even happened if the nurse in charge of infants Keita and Ryusei hadn't switched their ID tags out of spite for her own family troubles.
  • Foreshadowing: Before the switch's cause is properly understood, Midori's mother wonders if the whole situation happened out of to people's jealousy due to Midori "marrying up" when she got together with Ryota. Midori disregards this notion (which, to be fair, at this point comes out of superstition). Turns out her mother was essentially correct. The nurse that switched the babies even states that she was jealous of Midori's happiness specifically; the Saiki family just happened to be around.
  • Good Parents: Keita's biological parents, Yukari and Yudai Saiki may lack money, but have a better understanding of the importance of child and parent bonds than Ryota and Midori do, especially the former.
  • Green-Eyed Monster:
    • After Keita compliments Yudai (his biological father) on how he was able to fix his toy truck, Ryota is very annoyed.
    • The whole plot happens because a nurse, who was having family problems with her husband's children, was jealous of how happy Midori seemed at the hospital.
  • In the Blood: Ryusei seems to come after his father.
  • Last-Minute Baby Naming: Ryusei's parents named him after the fact that it was a bright sunny day when he was born.
  • Married to the Job: Ryota is extremely occupied with his job and spends little time with his son.
  • Mood Whiplash: During one of the time the parents go out, they are having a wonderful moment... up until Ryota states that he'll be taking custody over Keita and Ryusei. Midori later calls him out for this.
  • Multigenerational Household: In Yukari and Yudai's household. Besides them and their three kids, the maternal grandfather also lives with them.
  • Nature vs. Nurture: The topic is raised with Keito's lacking piano play despite him practicing a lot which his father contributes to lacking genes.
  • Nice Guy:
    • Despite being new to parenting, Midori is a kind mother to Keita (and later Ryusei), and is an overall nice person.
    • Yudai is a sweet and benevolent man who also doubles as being a Friend to All Children.
  • No Antagonist: Neither of the parents are people bent on getting their biological child for less than good reasons. And while Ryota may be the biggest jerkass of all of them he does have his redeeming qualities and became a better person.
  • No Ending: The future of the two families is left open.
  • Parents as People: Ryota and Midori mean well and do love their son, but they don't really have the understanding on how to raise a child since Keita is their first and only child. Their interactions with Yukari and Yudai help them.
  • The Perfectionist: Ryota wants the perfect job and his son to be the best at everything.
  • Pet the Dog: When Ryota goes to confront the nurse who switched Keita and Ryusei, her stepson comes to her defense. Despite Ryota's justified anger at the woman, he just gives the stepson a respectful pat on the shoulder, and leaves without a word.
  • Race for Your Love: A platonic example — Ryota chases after Keita after the latter runs away upon seeing him and after the running is over, Ryota apologizes for his actions.
  • The Runaway: Ryusei (Ryota and Midori's biological son) runs away from their home after missing his adoptive parents.
  • Switched at Birth: The premise of the story.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Ryota becomes a nicer person and better father through the whole emotional journey, and apologizing to Keita for many of the harsh things he said over the movie.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Midori tells off Ryota for how much of a jerk he's been, especially to Keita.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Subverted. But at different times some had implied that Midori and Yukair cheated on their husbands.

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