l i k e s o m e o n e i n l o v e
21st June 2013
4th July 2013
I’ve never seen any of Abbas Kiarostami’s films. Not even the one everyone has mentioned whilst reviewing this film – Certified Copy. I suspect this is my failing and will be seeking to remedy this because, although I have some reservations, I was very much impressed by Like Someone in Love.
The plot is easy to sum up but the movie is difficult to explain. It follows a handful of people as young student / prostitute Akiko is sent on a job to a man whom her pimp (is that what they’re called in Japan?) has a great deal of respect for. The customer turns out to be aging professor Takashi Watanabe who we’re left to assume is widowed and now lives alone with his books taking the odd translation job to keep him ticking over. Throw in Akiko’s borderline lunatic boyfriend and Takashi’s window hugging neighbour and that’s about it.
Akiko impresses Takashi when she turns up at his flat, stands about awkwardly whilst he finishes a phone call, chats amiably with him and then promptly puts herself to bed and falls asleep. He takes her to university the next day and sets off a series of events that end the movie abruptly.
To say that Kiarostami’s film is careful is a massive understatement. Nothing is disregarded; every detail of Akiko’s day is minutely examined as she goes about her life. As she settles into the taxi on the way to Takashi’s flat, she listens to every one of her seven voicemail messages. It’s a heartbreaking event as she listens to her Gran, in town for just one day and with no mobile phone, leave her increasingly disappointed messages saying where she will be waiting if Kiko can come and meet her. As the taxi drives past the station (the main location of her Gran’s waiting), Akiko stares out of the window at what presumably is her Gran stood by the statue. But instead of a close up confirming the assumption, we get the distant view that Akiko sees on her two laps of the station. It’s mortifying and a powerful device to demonstrate the isolation felt by the youngster in the big city.
This is a film that will try as many people’s patience as it rewards. It is one of the slowest films I have ever seen. At times it’s difficult to discern if Kiarostami is deliberately moving at this place or whether he only has one gear and no options for selection. Over an hour and twenty minutes, this will make a lot of people restless. There is doubtless a lot to be had though in experiencing the characters’ lives in this way. Nothing seems forced, there is no deliberate character arc sketched out here. About half an hour in, you’ll soon work out that this film has no more idea about traditional structure or in fact any particular structure. We first meet Akiko in a bar, dealing with her friend, her boyfriend berating her on her phone and eventually her pimp verbally forcing her into the evening's job rather than dashing off to meet her Gran. We kind of drop into the scene and initially it’s not even clear that Akiko is the star. It’s as if we pass her table and decide to pause, intrigued by her situation.
Around the time we work out that the film doesn’t want to play by normal structural rules, you’ll also probably work out that it will not have a clue how to end. This will turn out to be exactly right. It’s not really a spoiler as such but I won’t reveal the ending here. Suffice to say, it’s not really an ending. More like your money ran out in the jukebox. Halfway through a tune you’d got comfortable with. It’s not especially a criticism, I have absolutely no idea how this film should have ended but unlike, say Limbo, it doesn’t seem a natural climax to the movie. It kind of feels like everyone just decided to wrap it there for the day and head off home.
Like Someone in Love is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. It glistens with careful, deliberate and perceptive work. The cityscapes are wonderful to behold and in Tadashi Okuno and Rin Takanashi it has two mesmerizing central performances. It’s also slow to the point of stopping dead and leaves you wondering what it could have achieved if it has presented more of a story and less of a snapshot.
Check out the Like Someone in Love trailer here.