Review: Like Someone in Love (2012)


Set in Tokyo, Like Someone in Love follows Akiko (Rin Takanashi), a university student moonlighting as a call girl, whose relationship with an elderly client, Takashi Watanabe (Tadashi Okuno), turns into something deeper and more profound over the course of one evening at his apartment. However, as the night turns to morning and Takashi drives Akiko to class, he meets her abusive boyfriend, Noriaki (Ryô Kase), and claims to be her grandfather, complicating their encounter and perhaps revealing a deeper, more literal connection between the two of them.

Like Someone in Love is an emotional mystery, and proves that Abbas Kiarostami is the master of withholding narrative context. It works as a companion piece to Certified Copy, Kiarostami’s 2010 film starring Juliette Binoche and William Shimell as strangers meeting in Tuscany who might or might not be an old married couple. Both films are concerned with illusions of intimacy and how the projected emotions of individuals often become the real thing. They’re also both opaque films that manage to be emotionally devastating. Their opacity is demonstrated in how Certified Copy never clarifies whether Binoche and Shimell are actually married—allowing the second half of the film to play out as an inversion of the first—and how Like Someone in Love never reveals the truth about Akiko’s relationship to Takashi or the real reason he hired her services. However, instead of making these films distant, the opacity actually makes the films inherently fascinating. It transforms them into thematic puzzles the viewer happily strives to solve.

Aside from how thematically fascinating it is, Like Someone in Love is also formally gorgeous. It’s tightly edited and crisply shot. The opening scene is a masterclass in how to gradually reveal information in a scene and control cinematic space. It also plays as a version of the film in miniature. The film starts with a wide shot of a bar. We hear a voice from off screen arguing over the phone. We’re not sure who the voice belongs to as Kiarostami doesn’t cut to a reverse shot to reveal the speaker. Instead, he lets the frustrated phone conversation play out sans context. We eventually learn it’s Akiko arguing with Noriaki, but for several minutes, Kiarostami builds the mystery and allows us to become engrossed in the situation despite no narrative hook. When he does cut to the reverse shot, showing Akiko sitting at a table near the door, it’s almost beside the point, as Akiko’s emotions have flavoured the whole scenario. As well, because there are so few shots and cuts, each shot and each cut gains heightened significance. Each shot becomes a possible key to directorial intent and thematic meaning.

Like Someone in Love may not hold Certified Copy’s emotional power, but it’s a fascinating film, both impeccably crafted and thematically rewarding. It serves as further proof that Abbas Kiarostami is one of cinema’s most treasured filmmakers.

9 out of 10

Like Someone in Love (2012, France/Japan)

Written and directed by Abbas Kiarostami; starring Rin Takanashi, Tadashi Okuno, Ryô Kase.

This review was originally published at the now-defunct Toronto Film Scene.