Friday, July 11, 2014


Japanese Film Festival
Cinema 2, Shang Cineplex

Little Keita is six years old when his parents find out he is not their biological son. The hospital where he was born made a mistake when the nurse switched babies. It turns out his real family lives in the countryside and they are not as well off as his 'current' family.

This is the premise of this solemn family drama that unfolds flawlessly on screen. The emotions and feelings of all concerned parties are valid and realistically essayed by the ensemble cast. Although it involves a total nightmare situation for the kids who were switched at birth, it seems though they are still quite young to truly comprehend the real situation. It is mostly their distraught parents who bear the grim truth as any parent who are faced with such a likelihood would naturally experience a whole gamut of emotions. Pain, anger, learning to let go even though you have loved the child as your own for 6 long years.

Yet the revelation of the switch also helps clarify some buried questions that have nagged them. Why doesn't their child look like them? How come the mother didn't know from the get go that the baby wasn't her own flesh and blood? How come Keita is not as ambitious or strong willed as his father?  Their inner frustrations are brought to the forefront as the story progresses.

It was disturbingly painful to watch this film. As we are shown the vast difference between the two families, their parenting styles and the contrasting personalities of the kids, we find ourselves taking sides in this complicated conflict. But the manner in how the conflict is manifested through the characters different reactions adds to the poignancy factor of this heartbreaking film.

I also like how the director presented the contrast between both families. How despite being 'poor' and living in the countryside, the shop owner is a very hands on father to his children. His words of wisdom on parenting hit a raw nerve with the rich and ambitious architect who is clearly motivated by his career to the point that he hardly spends any quality time with his growing son. Admittedly, the characterizations of the upper class as being cold and the lower class as warm and loving is a bit of a cliche.

Yet the film never feels gimmicky as director Hirokazu Koreeda uses the situation to examine both the nature and the nurture while dealing with ties that simply cannot be broken and he reflects on the true essence of being a family.

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