MRR Review: "Like Someone in Love"

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In Tokyo, a young prostitute develops an unexpected connection with a widower over a period of two days.
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MRR Review: "Like Someone in Love"

-- Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Length: 109 minutes
Release Date: September 15, 2012
Directed by: Abbas Kiarostami
Genre: Drama

In "Like Someone in Love," Akiko (Rin Takanashi) is a university student who seems like she is almost at her wit's end when the audience first meets her. She is on the phone, listening to desperate messages from her grandmother, who is perplexed as to why she is not returning her phone calls. Her grandmother has made a special trip to Tokyo to visit with her, but Akiko has bigger problems to deal with. Her possessive, unstable boyfriend Noriaki (Ryo Kase) is angry with her and looks like he could mentally go off the rails at any moment.

As if poor Akiko doesn't have enough to deal with, she keeps getting calls from her pimp at the escort agency where she works on a part time basis. He has found a new client for her named Takashi (Tadashi Okuno), whom she assumes is a very important politician or rich businessman, since her pimp has gone out of his way to get her to meet him. When she gets to Takashi's place, she is surprised to find that he is an elderly man of no real social importance who is simply lonely. He spends his days in solitude, reflecting on the paintings in his home and reading, which surprises Akiko. This is the first of many surprises in store for her regarding her kindly new client.

Since all of the people she is closest with in her life are either angry with her or can't be told her real job, Akiko feels the need to connect. Takashi treats her well, never propositioning her like most clients, and he already knows what she does to earn money. He doesn't judge her for it and seems to want to help her, going so far as to give her a ride to school and telling her suspicious boyfriend that he is her grandfather. Noriaki buys their cover story, but the audience won't be buying it for a second. It is obvious that something else is going on, though whether it is a deep friendship or the first smatterings of an unlikely love is something that director Abbas Kiarostami leaves up to the audience to decide.

A story in which a younger person falls in love with a much older person is not new in film, but "Like Someone in Love" puts a new twist on it by hinting, but never revealing, what kind of love the characters are experiencing. By leaving it up to the audience to decide, he creates a flexible narrative that is as much a product of the viewer's imagination as his own. It is a unique approach that almost makes it feel as if audience participation is part of the filmmaking process. It is one of the more memorable aspects of the film, since the audience has to think instead of being spoon-fed the narrative. You may find yourself still thinking about the film and trying to come to a decision about Akiko and Takashi long after the end credits begin to roll.

Kiarostami has often said that his films are meant to incorporate artistic reflection. In "Like Someone in Love," he includes a painting called "Training a Parrot," which features a bird and a young girl in a kimono. While Takashi believes that the girl is teaching the parrot, Akiko observes that the bird could actually be the one doing the teaching. Kiarostami frames these scenes to include Akiko and the painting, and her actions mimic those of the girl in the painting. This remarkable set of shots really add to the story and gets the audience wondering exactly who is teaching whom in the film.

Another conscious effort that Kiarostami made while filming is to almost always have the character or characters in a scene fill the frame completely; the scenes with the painting are a rare departure from this tactic. This gives the film an almost insular effect that makes it feel more intimate. The backdrop of the film is Tokyo, a sprawling metropolis that can definitely add to a story if used correctly. Kiarostami virtually ignores the city, focusing instead on character development with the three main actors. The story could take place virtually anywhere in the world, which seems like the point Kiarostami is trying to make. No matter what culture or country you are from, human connections happen at all levels. The characters aren't the only ones making connections in "Like Someone in Love," though. The audience definitely makes a connection with the film, which is one of the biggest reasons why it is so good.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars