Like Someone In Love

Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 02/28/13 18:06:38

"Lost In Translation"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

In 2010, filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, the director of such internationally acclaimed works as “The Taste of Cherry” and “The Wind Will Carry Us,” went to Tuscany to shoot his first film outside of his native Iran. The result was “Certified Copy,” an oblique but affecting observation of a couple whose relationship to each other remained teasingly ambiguous throughout. With his latest effort, “Like Someone In Love,” he offers up more of the same with the difference coming in the form of a new location, a new language and the addition of a third person into the mix who could be read as representing audience confusion regarding the main characters. The result is a film that is undeniably intriguing, though I suspect it will not go down as one of Kiarostami’s best efforts.

Set in Japan, the film stars Rin Takanashi as Akiko, a young college student who is secretly working as an escort in order to combat her mounting money woes. One night, her boss asks her to take a cab ride an hour outside of Tokyo to meet with a very special client. Although she does not particularly feel like doing it--she is supposed to be meeting her visiting grandmother but is dodging her out of shame regarding her job--she eventually agrees to go. The client turns out to be Takashi (Tadashi Okuno), an elderly professor and instead of the usual business, he only really wants her there to share a meal and talk with him. Not believing that this is all he wants, Akiko gets into his bed and promptly falls asleep.

The next morning, Takashi drives Akiko back to Tokyo but when he drops her off at her school, they find Noriaki (Ryo Kase), her jealous and controlling boyfriend, waiting for her. Unexpectedly, Noriaki and Takashi get to talking and as a result, Noriaki is given the impression that the older man is actually her grandfather. Since he is not aware of how his girlfriend makes a living, Takashi and Akiko find it best to play along with that notion. When the three of them make stop at the service station where Noriaki works and Takashi unexpectedly meets with a former student of his, the two fear that the ruse is about to fall apart. By this time, however, the two have begun to realize that each one helps to fill a certain sense of loneliness in the others lives in ways that transcend any conventional relationship.

Although the setting may be unusual for him, fans of Kiarostami's past work will have no trouble recognizing his work here. Like many of his previous efforts, "Like Someone In Love" deals with characters who only gradually who they are and what they want and even then, they still manage to remain enigmas throughout. From a stylistic standpoint, it is also a piece with his earlier work with his preference for extended takes (often staged inside of automobiles) in which things are held in stillness for so long that every motion takes on great and powerful significance. In the past, Kiarostami's films have often left me spellbound but this time around, I must admit that was not the case. For whatever reason--perhaps its numerous thematic similarities with the far-superior "Certified Copy"--I just could not quite get into it and found its deliberate ambiguities to be more frustrating than intriguing. To his credit, Kiarostami does address this to a certain degree via the introduction of Noriaki and his confusion about the nature of the relationship between Takashi and Akiko but his observations towards them keep us at such a remove that it proves to be almost impossible to become fully involved with their stories.

And yet, while "Like Someone In Love" may not be a completely satisfying moviegoing experience in the traditional sense, it is not entirely without interest. The three main actors all deliver strong performances and to whatever extent it is that the audience cares about the characters, it is almost entirely due to their efforts. From a visual standpoint, the film is beautiful to look at and Kiarostami's penchant for long takes is arresting as well. And while the story doesn't really go anywhere--although that may be the point--it does end on a final note that is both intriguing and quietly provocative to boot.

As I mentioned earlier, Abbas Kiarostami is one of the great filmmakers working today and even though "Like Someone In Love" is not one of his masterworks by a long shot, it proves that even a second-tier effort from someone of his talents can be more interesting than the best efforts of most of his contemporaries. It isn't great and I am not entirely sure that I would recommend it to most people--especially if they are newcomers to Kiarostami--but at the same time, I am almost certain that for all its flaws, I will be thinking about long after most of the other films now showing have been mercifully forgotten.

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