As you begin to peel back the layers of the film, the themes and ideas grow more vivid, more potent, and more personal.
Like Someone in Love
Abbas Kiarostami’s gift is his ability to elicit feelings in his audience from the inside out; he sneaks into our subconscious, plants a seed that germinates and grows slowly—at his pace, specifically—and eventually flourishes into a flood of emotion, meditation, and self-reflection, sometimes long after the credits have rolled. Kiarostami’s proclivity for creating multi-layered cinema—both thematically and visually—results in films that inherently ask of us that we invest significant energy into deciphering them. He rewards us for it. Like Someone in Love might initially feel elusive and trying, but the more you give of yourself to the movie, the more it gives back. As you begin to peel back the layers of the film, the themes and ideas grow more vivid, more potent, and more personal. It’s a fulfilling, delicate process that makes each individual’s experience with the film unique.
Rin Takanashi plays a young call girl who is dispatched by her assertive boss to service a man he respects, the learned and elderly Tadashi Okuno. When she arrives, it’s apparent that Okuno isn’t looking for the typical call girl experience—he warmly chats with her, cooks her dinner, and puts her to bed, without joining her. In the morning, Okuno drives her to school, where he encounters her unstable boyfriend (Ryo Kase), whose jealousy explodes into anger and violence.
Much like Kiarostami’s brilliant Certified Copy, to describe the plot or events that occur during the film doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what the film actually is. However, unlike Certified Copy’s enigmatic 100-minute act, Like Someone in Love’s characters participate in less mysterious—though equally telling—mini-masquerades. Kase mistakes Okuno for Takanashi’s grandfather when they first meet, and Okuno plays along. A lady mistakes Takanashi for Okuno’s granddaughter, and she plays along as well. In these moments, the characters find it easier to slip into the roles projected on them rather than correct or reject the presumption, which speaks volumes. Though it’s clear that the two are virtually strangers, these small moments of play-acting ironically illustrate just how real their connection is. They need each other, or at least they like the idea.
The pacing of the film is challenging at times, but the jaw-dropping visuals are sure to pull you through to the end. Kiarostami’s understanding of light, color, and composition are on full display here. He exhibits a mastery of every technique he employs. Take the opening scene, for example. Takanashi is sitting in a beautifully lit, bustling night club; the colors sing and the shadows are thick. He brilliantly plays with the typical shot-reverse-shot setup by making one of the subjects an empty chair, which different characters occasionally sit in. It’s a refreshing take on the convention. He also utilizes smooth-as-silk superimposed imagery as a storytelling device; he overlays a reflection of Takanashi’s boss over her through a window, as if he is haunting her. These techniques work harmoniously and are breathtaking when combined.
In an early, heart-wrenching scene, Takanashi is in a cab late at night as she listens to voicemails from her grandmother that she has ignored all day. Her grandmother has come to visit, and tells Takanashi that she has been waiting for her at the train station for over twelve hours. Takanashi puts on an exquisite wordless performance as the voicemails grow increasingly heartbreaking. Grandma never once complains about being stood up. We eventually circle the train station and see a tiny figure in the distance from inside the cab. We squint to see more clearly. Is it the grandmother? Kiarostami plays the audience like a fiddle like only a great director can.
Like Someone in Love’s finale is unfortunately uninspiring and jarring. Certified Copy contains a similarly ambiguous ending, though it feels more open and invites interpretation. The ending here is more confusing than anything, and unfortunately dampens a mostly great experience. Kiarostami’s latest is a treat for the eyes, ears, mind and soul. It might test your patience, and the ending might leave a bad taste in your mouth, but it will undoubtedly find a place in your head, sit there for a while, and one day, you might just fall in love with it. In the meantime, you’ll surely want to talk about it.