Why does a parent love a child?
Two answers come to mind. One, because the child is yours - they are of your blood. And two, because in raising them, you grow to love them.
Like Father, Like Son is a film that plays on the tension between these two reasons, drawing them apart and setting them in opposition to one another. It follows two families in contemporary Japanese society, each raising a son. Six years into the childhood of these boys born on the same day, the hospital contacts them to let them know that they were accidentally switched at birth. Two sets of parents are placed in an impossible situation.
It's an intriguing setup and the film takes its time to explore the concept of parental love in appropriate depth. The film is shot in a clean, simple style, and the cultural idiosyncrasies of Japan recede into the background as the narrative emphasizes more universalist questions.
It's an interesting frame to think about: we all consider parental love as unconditional, but isn't it conditional on biological relatedness? Isn't the correct biological paradigm of adoption as one of an erroneous form of attachment? An ape executing an algorithm in the wrong way, failing to accede to its own genetic interest?
Spoiler alert: the film ultimately answers this question in the negative. The origin of our capacity to love doesn't matter - it matters only that we do love, and no matter the ruthlessness of the savanna plains from which it arose, we can choose transcendence.
Indirectly, then, Like Father, Like Son affirms the idea that love can have meaning outside of its biological constraints - that we can choose the meaning that we attach to love. This was ultimately the same point I wanted to make in writing Beta Male.
In conclusion: four stars out of five.
people I admire
Bret Easton Ellis