Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Like Someone in Love — an OK movie with some glaring flaws

If one thing can be said for Like Someone in Love, the Japanese-language, French-produced film written and directed by Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, released at the Living Room Theater on April 12, it’s that it likes to take its time.

This film provides a very measured, carefully paced experience, as every single scene feels like the camera was left running, for better or for worse.

There is definitely real drama within the film, but an emphasis on non-essential and unimportant background events over the actual story, plodding dialogue, and a final scene that The Sopranos would call foul severely hinder its ability to convey that drama.

Akiko, portrayed by Japanese television actress Rin Takanashi, is a call girl and student of sociology. She uses the prostitution business to make ends meet while dealing with her suspicious and temperamental fiancee, Noriaki, portrayed by film actor Ryo Kase, who insists on keeping tabs on her at all times.

His insistence on knowing where she is has gotten to the point where he demands she takes photos of the floor, so he can go and check for himself later to see if Akiko is lying.

When Akiko is sent to the house of an elderly scholar, Takashi — portrayed by stage actor Tadashi Okuno — it’s anything but business as usual. Takashi wants to have a nice, romantic time with her. Akiko, on the other hand, wants to get things over with as soon as possible, much to his disappointment.

When Takashi runs into Noriaki and lies to him about being Akiko’s grandfather, he sets into motion a chain of events that could lead to deadly consequences for the both of them by day’s end.  Along the way, Akiko also learns a little about Takashi’s past.

Like Someone in Love is an extremely slow-paced character drama, with scenes lingering on for minutes at a time to make room for more dialogue. These scenes place heavy emphasis on the background while plot-important dialogue is in the foreground.

An example of this is the opening scene, which spends at least four minutes straight on its nightclub setting, while a phone conversation between Akiko and Noriaki is pushed to the background. While the scene does occasionally cut to Akiko herself, most of it is spent watching patrons get drunk and seeing her fellow call girl and their pimp chatting it up.

The problem with this is that the film stays a bit too long with these moments, and the audience ends up getting a solid three minutes without a cut to anything else. It gives the impression that the non-essential parts of the film, like how the bartender pours someone a glass of wine, are more important than the character-establishing dialogue.

The dialogue is somewhat lackluster for the majority of the film, spoken in Japanese but translated into English subtitles. There are some moments where it really shines, such as Akiko’s initial refusal to go on a specific job for her pimp, Noriaki’s confessions to Takashi on his thoughts of what marriage means, and Takashi talking about why he loves books.

Their lines in those specific scenes are extremely well written and show a lot of character depth in just a few words, and the acting brings out a lot of emotion in them. Unfortunately, the rest of the dialogue tends to fluctuate between ‘alright, but not too memorable’ and ‘more bland than raw tofu.’

While a large chunk of this can be attributed to creative choices in regards to translation, a lot of it may stem from Kiarostami’s script. It feels as if the dialogue was written in English first, and then translated for the Japanese actors. The actors do their job well, but the emotion of the acting feels displaced from the stiff nature of the dialogue.

The cinematography in the film is handled extremely well, and has a specific emphasis on reflections. Early in the film, the audience sees a blurred reflection of Akiko lying naked in Takashi’s bed while he tries to convince her to come eat dinner.

When the film starts venturing beyond stationary rooms and into more wide open spaces, such as inside cars and onto roads, the camerawork shows reflections of the landscape and people around the area in a somewhat “tilted” manner. People walking on the street are slanted by the viewpoint of the windshield, and the highways above them appear upside-down.

Rarely does the audience see what the characters do, and when there are point of view shots, they are fairly mundane shots of pavement and street lights. These are neat setups, but they don’t really — for lack of a better term — reflect too much on the characters.

Takanashi is extremely subdued as Akiko. Her only major role prior to this was in a television series called Samurai Sentai Shinkenger (which was brought over to the United States as Power Rangers Samurai).

The way she played her character, Shinken Pink — as a peppy, upbeat heroine — is a far cry from what we get in Like Someone In Love. Her voice is at a constant hush, even in crowded settings like nightclubs and car repair shops.

The only time she ever raises her voice is at the beginning and end of the movie, each time due to Noriaki. Her body language, however, speaks loud and clear, as her eyes and occasional hand gestures say a lot more than most of the dialogue.

Her eyes dart from side to side when she’s put on the spot, her hands shake and twitch as she tries to tell a lie. She becomes a lot more relaxed whenever she’s “on the job,” changing her body language entirely. Her arms stretch out, and she becomes a lot more touchy-feely with the things around her. This attention to detail makes her performance the strongest of the whole film.

Kase has the opposite situation — he does not have a lot of body language in his performance, but he speaks the most out of any of the film’s cast. His performance manages to make even the blandest of dialogue sound genuine because of the intensity with which he plays Noriaki.

Okuno is somewhere in the middle, pulling off a decent enough performance as a kindly old man, but there really is not that much more to his performance, though that’s more of a writing issue than an acting issue.

Akiko and Noriaki are written with specific arcs — Akiko warming up to Takashi, Noriaki realizing that he’s been lied to — with some bumps and development along the road.

However, Takashi pretty much goes from Point A to Point B as the same character he was when the film started. There’s little to no development in his character, and while the acting isn’t poor, the characterization is.

The three actors, despite the roadblocks provided, play off each other extremely well. Their chemistry makes the movie, with scenes in the car particularly showcasing the tension rising between the characters in their facial movements and gestures towards each other, even when the dialogue falters.

There’s little music in the film. There are a few scenes with no dialogue and a radio playing, but it’s fairly low key and does not leave much of an impact.

One song does appear twice in the film, an old 1944 slow dance tune called (surprise, surprise,) “Like Someone in Love,” sung by Ella Fitzgerald. It’s first played as the soundtrack to Takashi’s failed romantic dinner, and it’s played again over the credits. It’s more fitting in the former than the latter.

The international nature of the film is barely touched upon. Despite the opening titles being in French, the rest of the film is grounded solely in Japan. It could be mistaken for a wholly Japanese film if one were to walk in a few minutes late.

The film’s plot is simple enough that it could have been written or produced anywhere — it just happened to be made by an Iranian director with the help of a French and a Japanese company.

The finale, however, leaves a lot to be desired. The scenes before the final seconds of the film are tension filled, bringing everything that has been stewing for the second half of the movie to a boil.

As the tension boils over, however, the movie just stops. There is no ending. It feels like there was an ending at one point, but it got taken out at the last minute, due to the abruptness of the film’s final seconds.

This wouldn’t be so bad were it not for the fact that the story and character arcs are intertwined with each other intricately, and by not having an ending, the development these characters have been going through just grinds to a halt. A few seconds more could have made all the difference in the long run.

Like Someone in Love feels like a ‘made-for-Lifetime’ movie more than an independent theatrical release. There’s a lot of potential that gets squandered, and the character development isn’t that strong, which is extremely problematic for a film that focuses on the characters rather than the plot.

While it has its moments of greatness, audiences will be left with more memory of the bar from the opening scene than the finale they just saw.

Final Grade: 70 percent. Like Someone in Love’s cast and cinematography bring out a lot of potential — some of which is realized — but its poor pacing, dialogue and “ending” keep it from becoming anything more than an okay movie.

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