The complexities of each individual family unit are boundless. Both child and parent interact in unique ways, forging memories and developing routines. We make plans. We make promises. We form unshakable bonds. But the ties that bind run deeper than blood, and often stand strongest on ethereal and sometimes inexplicable levels. It’s because of such connections that we have no doubt as to who our family is. Whether the family you’re born into, or that which you make for yourself, there’s an undeniable gravitational pull. In rare cases, mistakes have been made. Children swapped, and taken home with the wrong parent. Sometimes errors are caught. Others go unnoticed. Such is the premise for Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest venture into the family unit, Like Father, Like Son.
Ryoto Nonomiya (Masaharu Fukuyama) is a wealthy, successful Tokyo architect. He spends most of his time at work, in order to provide for his wife, Midori (Machiko Ono), and their six-year-old son, Keita (Keita Ninomiya). Their life seems perfect: a wonderful career, a beautiful condo, piano lessons, tutoring, and a future to plan. Their plans for Keita are derailed when the maternity hospital where he was born contacts the parents, informing them of a grave error. At birth, Keita was mistakenly swapped with another infant born that same day. The son they have is not their own. Due to traditional values, and presumably legal matters, Midori and Ryoto must meet with Keita’s birth parents in order to discuss a trade.
The other parents, Yudai (Rirî Furankî) and Yukari Saiki (Yôko Maki), live a modest life. Yudai runs an electronics shop, while Yukari works at a fast food restaurant. Ryusei (Shôgen Hwang) is the Nonomiya’s birth son, one of the Saiki’s three children. A rambunctious boy, energetic and eager to play, he seems a stark contrast to Keita, a surprisingly disciplined and poised 6-year-old.
The hospital’s lawyer urges the parents to make their decision to exchange the children quickly, with entrance to elementary school looming. “They’re not pets,” replies Yudai in amused disbelief. The decision is a difficult one, made increasingly complicated by tradition and pride.