Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Cast: Rin Takanashi, Tadashi Okuno, Ryo Kase
Running Time: 109 Minutes.
Release Date: June 21
Like Someone in Love is the latest film from acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami (Certified Copy, Taste of Cherry). Set in Tokyo, it is a spare, slowly unfolding drama, the subtle effects of which linger in both mind and heart long after the film’s jarring ending has passed. Opaque and open-ended it may beguile or revile depending on each viewer’s propensity for slow-moving, explorative drama but anyone willing to allow the film time to unfold is likely to find themselves seduced by this quietly powerful film.
Opening in a busy bar, Kiarostami immediately intrigues and disorientates the viewer by layering a character’s dialogue over the scene without anchoring it to a visual source. He invites the viewer to ponder which, if any, of those featured in the frame (many of whom have their backs to us) is the person we hear before finally revealing Akiko (Rin Takanashi), who has been off-camera, speaking on a mobile phone.
A sociology student, Akiko works nights as a call girl. When her paternal-esque pimp schedules her an appointment with a man he greatly respects, Akiko protests; she has an exam to study for and her grandmother is visiting. Her pimp assures her she won’t regret it and, though Akiko never verbally relents, hails her a cab and hands the driver the address. Akiko is clearly trapped. Her paralysis beautifully portrayed in a heartbreaking scene in which, en route to her client, Akiko has the driver circle her grandmother as she waits by a statue in front of the train station.
Akiko’s client is Takashi Watanabe (Tadashi Okuno). A retired professor, the endearing Watanabe shuffles around his book-filled apartment, trapped in his own endless cycle of ringing phones and mundane requests. Watanabe is only interested in Akiko’s company and has prepared them dinner, including a soup traditional to Akiko’s hometown. Akiko isn’t hungry though and when Watanabe rebuffs her invitations to join her in bed the already exhausted girl falls asleep. The next day, things take a turn when Watanabe drives Akiko to college and encounters her possessive boyfriend, Noriaki (Ryo Kase). Noriaki, who knows nothing of Akiko’s nocturnal activities, mistakes Watanabe for her grandfather and the professor plays along. The ensuing drama unfolds in more or less real time.
Deeply melancholic, Kiarostami’s film is so banal and mundane in its treatment of everyday lives you almost forget you’re watching a film. Yet it seeps under your skin and into your bones and lives with you in the most extraordinary and unexpected of ways. If you’ve ever whiled away an afternoon people watching in a café, this is quite possibly a film for you.