Cannes 2012 Review: Like Someone In Love
Having just dropped off to school the young woman with whom he spent the night, a friendly elderly man whose age can only be assumed by his white hair and beard and by the slowness of his speech and pace, watches pensively as the young woman’s fiancé approaches the car. He is a gangly fellow with an obvious temper, one on display in public when he grabbed the young woman, questioning her before letting her run off to class.
After asking for a light, he asks the old man if he is the young woman’s grandfather, and when he acquiesces, the lengthy conversation that transpires is a surprising blend of wit, charm, tension, and realism.
The same should be said for every scene in Like Someone in Love, a competition film at the 65th Cannes Film Festival that premiered on Monday night, where an arranged meeting between a young female escort and an elderly gentleman bring forth curious conversations amid apprehension and loneliness in bustling Tokyo.
Akiko is trapped in relationship with a jealous and demanding boyfriend—in the opening scene he questions her about every detail of the bar only so he can later visit and confirm—but it is mostly of her own doing. Her photo appears on cards and signs around the city where those with means and time can arrange a meeting through her employer, who does seem to care a bit for Akiko.
She is sent late at night to meet a stranger for particular yet unknown reasons, and so the story unfolds.
Shot in Japan in Japanese, and with Japanese actors, Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami writes and directs with exacting purpose, drawing out every piece of dialogue and scene in a way that skirts the lines between being charmingly realistic and exceedingly dull. The pace is one of actuality, and the conversations are interrupted by the mundane, like pulling into traffic, the beeping of a microwave, or the ringing of a phone.
If the world around Akiko is sluggish, it is only because she is too. Her rare moments of animation and childlike curiosity interrupt lengths of lifelessness, as she passively adheres to the wishes of the men in her life, while ignoring the advice of her female friend and the outreach of her family.
The film occurs across one night and the following day, showing the tacit evolution of a strange bond between the former professor and a young student. Do not expect some catharsis or brilliant awakening—it is less a film or more a series of scenes from real life. The actors have explained that they were working without a script, and the director, known for this particular slow style, admits that the film doesn’t really have a beginning or ending.
He’s right. The beginning is a lengthy opening in a bar not at all separate from the following scenes, while the ending is sudden, much to the dismay of some critics. This matters little though. Much of drama in movies comes from something special or unique, a defining moment or life-changing event or even a grand spectacle; these movies are an escape from real life. Like Someone in Love (also a title of an Ella Fitzgerald song) is more real life than it is movie, and while it doesn’t drown in minutia, it tends to make the everyday charming, a credit to the winning actors.
With the young male in the car chatting to who he believes to be the grandfather of the woman he wants to marry, Akiko soon returns, internally shocked but still listless. She gets in the back seat, and the trio drive away, with lies and preoccupations abound, but no means to escape.