Abbas Kiarostami really put Iranian cinema on the map with 1999 great The Wind Will Carry Us and has had a very successful career both critically and around the world, managing to navigate the tight censorship laws in Iran various times to promote filmmaking in his native country as well. His latest project, a film set in Japan and entirely in Japanese, may represent a change of setting but still bears his unmistakeable stamp on every scene, making it a good addition to his already substantial oeuvre.
As always with his pictures, the film requires a high standard of acting from its very small cast in every shot, and they definitely deliver. Rin Takanashi makes a compelling central character, and one that is not hard to empathise with at all. Kiarostami’s always simple tone allows you to get inside the character, at the same time as being a master at making you wonder about their background, yearning for all those unsaid things that are clearly etched in to the characters’ faces. This deep sense of characterisation defines each character, and Kiarostami allows us to spend time with their through their most tumultuous and conflicting moments as well as the more serene, fulfilling ones.
Some Kiarostami staples return in style, including long car journeys, a familiar tactic he uses for exposition and for setting, as well as a delightful sequence where one character masquerades as something he isn’t with seemingly good effect. These sequences also serve to address some of Kiarostami’s overarching themes: love and pretending to be in love being a major part. This, linked with the idea that a new person in your life will always bring their own baggage with them, and that no single relationship is as simple as it might seem makes for interesting viewing as all the characters intertwine in a miasma of misunderstanding and impending consequence.
Like Someone In Love is a deliberating slow-burner that addresses prostitution and relationships, as well as a smattering of culture and life in modern day Tokyo, considering lingering societal perceptions of the norm for a young couple soon to be married. It’s beautifully filmed and intricately plotted, with an ending so out of the blue it becomes completely fitting. Its only real downside is that it’s nothing new for the seasoned auteur, and while it’s nice seeing him make this sort of film, perhaps it would show even more intelligence if he tried something beyond the realm of the introspective character study.