I really wanted to like this movie, but there were some aspects that left me troubled. What caught my interest was this all-Japanese cast in all-Japanese medium movie was directed by an Iranian. I was not familiar with any of his previous works. So, without delving into the synopsis or any review beforehand, I just went ahead with the movie.
The whole movie involves a lot of still camera, no soundtrack, a lot of ambient sounds, characters sitting around and talking, a kind of minimalism reminiscent of movies like Before Sunrise and Before Sunset that I really adore. The first scene was interesting because you hear someone talking but the person wasn't on screen, and the whole frame was just a slew of people minding their own business in a bar. It's as if the camera was shot from a person's point of view sitting at one of the tables in the bar and you're tuned in to someone's phone conversation. Much of the other shots were also composed of "close" shots such that you feel like you're in the personal space of the conversation itself, , but at the same time, you're separated from it by window panes and others feel like you're eavesdropping. There's no panning shots typical of movies, no rolling hills or city skyline sweeps whatsoever, everything is experienced as a human observer or passer-by perspective, and yeah I guess I've been watching super hero movies lately, so I'd really notice the change of cinematography.
The premise itself was pretty interesting, but I felt with the relatively short run time, I really wished the whole movie was a lot more..finished ? I tried hard to be invested in the conversations, but some didn't really get to the point, although the character interactions are really interesting, especially the ones with three characters in the car, I felt that it was well done. It was tense. The first encounter between the female lead and her "client" felt like it didn't reach its potential, I wish there was a lot more to it because whatever they were talking about didn't feel like it established any dynamics between the two characters.
Yes, the ending just blew it for me. I don't know if the ending was a deliberate artistic decision, but the way the movie ended left me wanting more, and it makes me wonder what the director wanted to achieve by making his audience elicit such a reaction, because a movie like this, in my opinion, doesn't need and most likely will not have a sequel. You will never know what happen in the end.
I'm usually fine with cliffhangers and open endings, but this ending just left me wondering what the director wanted to achieve with something that was barely establishing.. anything ? Was it just on a whim, yeah, I just don't want to finish this movie, or was there a purpose behind depicting the incompleteness of the narrative ?
Despite that major gripe with the ending, I did like how the scenes were composed, the character interaction and the story-telling, as well as the mood. It made me feel a little melancholic for some reason. It's just sad that the melancholy wasn't justified or explained or rewarded at the end.
Warning : Spoilers ahead.
If I were to take a stab at the central themes in the film, I'd say, from the beginning to the end, the most stark would have been on the female lead's alternate identity. She's trying to hide it from her jealous boyfriend, and I was wondering if that was also the reason why she hesitated in seeing her grandmother since the voice messages that her grandmother left for her that she didn't respond to also mentioned seeing her picture, or a picture of someone who looks like her that suggested something of an escort service, I suppose. The scene where she was driven around the station, but not going ahead to meet her grandmother left me a little sad.
The second most stark thing would have been the roles each character played, or at least, the expectations of what each character would have if they were playing the role. I didn't know what to make of the purpose of the client, Takashi's wish to call on the female lead, Akiko. I didn't expect him to explicitly say it, but due to the really short single conversation that happened over night, which was barely even a conversation cuz the girl went straight to bed after (what the hell??). There was hardly any background on him either, to what led him to the decision to call on her. There were lots of comments about how the girl looks like his wife or something a few times throughout the movie, but it didn't say much to me. Was he just lonely ? Did he want a relationship ? Did he want her as a romantic companion or did he just see her as the "granddaughter" that people mistaken her for ? Not answered to the end, so I didn't know what to feel about it, although I felt sorry for him that she ended up not having any of his food. Yes, that's also another weird thing, he took the effort to make her food and buy wine and play music, in fact, I think, the only soundtrack throughout the movie.
The only character played straight without any change in role-playing was the jealous boyfriend, Noriaki. From the beginning to the end, he was the constant variable, as the relationship between the old man and the girl changed from being client and call girl (and it's not even the conventional way such a scene played out too) to fake grandfather and granddaughter.
I guess, in a way, the title Like Someone In Love, sort of makes sense, if you put the emphasis on the word "Like". It suggests that it only appears to be, when in reality, it is not. Who is the "someone" that is "like" in love ? Akiko ? Takashi ? Noriaki ? Akiko is in a relationship, but she doesn't seem too sure about it anymore, with her secret identity on the line and the possessiveness of Noriaki, and Takashi himself, who knows what's he really feeling inside. Only Noriaki is the only one to explicitly say that he is in love, with Akiko. It was as if Noriaki was the single character rebelling against the whole concept of the movie's vagueness and concealing identities. Who knows, if that was what was intended. There could be details that I didn't go too deep into.
One scene that felt out of place was the short conversation, or rather, lecture, by Takashi's estranged neighbor who confesses to Akiko that she wanted to marry Takashi but didn't have the chance and is now only reduced to watching him from a small window. I didn't know what this scene wanted to establish especially when it is the final scene before the ending took place very abruptly right after. Who knows, she may have called Akiko Takashi's granddaughter, but then she went ahead and talked about marrying Takashi, maybe she suspects that Akiko is really not the granddaughter.
Well, that was all I could get out of a single viewing. It's not all bad, just a little frustrating at the lack of resolution at the end wasn't worth the investment.
*Aside: I have time to watch movies now. Not sure if I like this or not.*