While directors like Steven Soderbergh find that their time behind the camera may in fact be up, or at least their drive to craft cinematic art depleated, director Abbas Kiarostami not only appears to be driving forward in a medium he’s been a pioneer within, but he only seems to be making better and even more emotionally affecting pieces of art as he gets older.
Following the masterpiece that was the now-Criterion-approved Certified Copy, the auteur is back at it with his long awaited follow-up, and while it’s a brazenly quiet motion picture, it may be his most stimulating work to date.
Like Someone In Love follows the story of a young prostitute, who we meet one evening, discovering that she has been tasked with meeting a new, elderly client. Akiko is, at first reluctant, but is then given the gig anyways by a pimp who simply tosses her in the back of a cab, sending her off into the waiting arms of a man she’s never met. But what follows is as far from what anyone could imagine from reading that synopsis. When she meets Takashi, an elderly former professor, the two form an instant, almost familial bond, finding Takashi as some sort of stand in for her grandfather when her aggressive boyfriend comes into the picture. A film about a cavalcade of ideas without saying even half as much verbally, Like Someone In Love is a plaintive meditation on things ranging from loneliness to the desire for connection that is as understated as it is utterly breathtaking and brilliantly crafted.
Shot as much as an ode to Tokyo as a story of these characters, Like Someone In Love may be one of Kiarostami’s most beautiful directorial efforts to date. Be it the luscious cinematography from Katsumi Yanagijima, or way in which director Kiarostami frames the film (particularly the opening sequence which doesn’t introduce us to our lead until a handful of minutes in), it features the Ozu-esque simplicity that made Kiarostami the auteur he is today, but it also contains the long shots that are both melancholic and as engaging and thrilling as any car chase we’ve ever seen.
Narratively, the film also speaks to themes that Kiarostami has seemingly mined for the majority of his career. With startlingly deep and provocative performances from Tadashi Okuno and Rin Takanashi, the film lacks the playful drama and seemingly vital experimentation within the narrative that makes Certified Copy possibly the best film of the last 10 years, but makes up for it with a film full of equal parts quiet performances and highly stylized filmmaking. Tokyo’s setting is icy cold enough to match the film’s quiet aesthetic, and yet it’s full of life and color, matching with the singular choices that Kiarostami makes within each of his frames.
And to say that this film, in all of its roughly two hour runtime, is slow, is utterly silly. One of the most bizarre viewing experiences around, this film has the aesthetic of a Chantal Akerman film, but breezes by with the seemingly brisk nature of a big summer blockbuster. With a narrative that finds the viewer lost in everything from the perfectly crisp photography to our lead female’s gorgeous and telling eyes, Like Someone In Love plays as both an entrancing and meditative drama as well as a vital look at the need, or alleged need, for pure human contact, at whatever cost. With pivotal moments compounded upon utterly pivotal moments, the film ultimately culminates in one of the most shocking (and surely polarizing) finales in recent memory.
However, if you’ve gone for this journey up until the conclusion, you’ll surely find the conclusion one that is utterly and completely fulfilling. Said to be a spiritual relative to the director’s last film, the dots do sometimes cross, but this is an entirely different, albeit just as thought provoking piece of work. With the lies piling up, the film’s final moments are some of the most tense you’ll see all year, and it’s only because the time spent with these people may be full of quiet moments, but they are moments so full of life and truth that the conclusion packs even more of an emotionally charged gut punch that will surely leave you winded. I’ve tossed around a cavalcade, dare a say a gaggle, of adjectives here to describe this picture ranging from beautiful to brilliant. While that may all seem like hyperbole, it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of how profound and moving this motion picture truly is. And that’s because I myself have only scratched this film’s surface. Seeing the film for a second time unravels even more strings within the web that is this narrative and its themes, and I’m sure even more strings will be loosened upon further viewings. That’s what art does, and frankly, this is pure, unadulterated cinematic poetry.