LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE
Written and Directed by: Abbas Kiarostami
Starring: Ryo Kase, Rin Takanashi, Denden, Tadashi Okuno, Mihoko Suzuki
Dearest readers, it’s hard to be on board with a person’s journey when you view them as unsympathetic. This is true in both life and in cinema. In writer-director Abbas Kiarostami’s LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE, this notion is tested over the course of what feels like an epically long 109 minutes, and leaves us shaken up and a bit angry. While it explores interesting interpersonal dynamics within a love triangle, ultimately it’s a wasted effort.
We first meet cute, soft-spoken call girl Akiko (Rin Takanashi) sitting in a cafe in Japan. After being chastised by a controlling asshole calling himself her boyfriend (Noriaki, played by Ryo Kase), she is again spoken to sternly by her boss who’s urging her to take on a client. Exploding in a verbal rage, she leaves the cafe only to drive around the streets of Tokyo aimlessly and feel guilty about not seeing her grandma. She winds up at elderly client Takashi’s (Tadashi Okuno) home, where she lightens up and engages in some sweet small talk with him. Though nothing happens sexually, the two form a bond that morphs throughout the course of the film. After getting caught in the car together, Akiko and Takashi are forced to pretend they are granddaughter and grandfather so as to not enrage jealous Noriaki (who is surprisingly kind to Takashi). Even though the audience is privy to the secret and will delight in seeing the situation play out, the end of the journey stands in sharp juxtaposition to the beauty that comes before.
The film’s biggest problem is that Akiko comes off as an unsympathetic heroine right from the get go. Not only does she stick with her asshole boyfriend, she doesn’t go visit her grandmother, from whom she’s trying to hide her profession. It’s not cool to leave grandma out in the cold. We sense Akiko is ashamed of her life, but c’mon. The rest of the film is spent building her back up, but we still aren’t sure we like her and care about her plight. She also brings her personal mess to Takashi’s front door, and from what we can tell, this sweet old man doesn’t deserve to get caught in the mix. Technically he’s lying to Noriaki too, but it’s ultimately Akiko’s fault Noriaki is around.
Kiarostami seems to take glee in playing around with audience sympathies. Akiko and Takashi fill voids in each other’s lives; he’s looking for a daughter substitute and she’s looking for a caring soul to listen and respect her. There’s a certain sweet sentimentality attached to that, but we must remember they were brought together under lascivious circumstances – he called for sex from a sex worker. Should that mean their relationship is doomed? That’s for us to judge.
Even though LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE could have benefited from more scenes featuring Takashi’s nosy neighbor (Mihoko Suzuki), the narrative builds to a calculated and precise release. Given the talented filmmaker involved, I would have preferred a different ending, as this one is jarring and out of place.
LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE plays AFI FEST on November 4 and 6.