The new film by Koreeda Hirokazu was on at one of the more arty cinemas in Bristol this week, and since I almost never get to see Japanese films while they are still in the top ten in Japan, so I jumped at the chance. Plus, I love the director’s previous works, like Still Walking and Going My Home, so I was looking forward to this film anyway.
Usually, Koreeda’s film concern themselves with very slim themes, like a family reunion at a funeral, or some children’s desire to make a wish where two bullet trains pass, or a fable about little people who live in a forest. This time, though, the storyline is more substantial: two sets of parents are told that the sons they have been raising was not their real son. Six years ago they were switched at birth with the other couple’s child.
I’m so used to Koreeda making films about stories that aren’t even stories, it is a bit odd to see him tackle the kind of themes and scenes that you’d find in other films. In this way, at least, this is his most commercial work. The film has got more press attention, perhaps because a film about two sets of parents who learn that they’re children were swapped at birth is easier to write about than his previous work.
So I find myself damning it with faint praise. It’s good, really it is. But it’s not his best. There are plenty of things to recommend it, though. The cast are great, and Koreeda can get performances out of children that seem natural and unforced. If you like Koreeda's films, then this definitely recommended, and if you've never seen his films, then this is probably the best place to start.