Like Someone in Love is a 2012 film from director Abbas Kiarostami and the fourth film from Kiarostami in The Criterion Collection (Close-up, Taste of Cherry, Certified Copy). It was released by Criterion as spine #708 on May 20, 2014. Like Someone in Love is the first Japanese film from Kiarostami and only the second film he has made outside of his native Iran (Certified Copy, Italy).
The film is set in Tokyo and the surrounding area. Akiko is a student and a part-time call girl with an overprotective and short-fused fiancé. She is sent to meet with Takashi, an elderly client who is an author and retired professor. Takashi seems to merely seek company and someone to talk to, with no other intentions. The following morning Takashi takes Akiko to school where he meets her fiancé, who believes Takashi to be Akiko’s grandfather.
The events of the film are minimal and direct. The depth of the film lies in the relationship formed between Akiko and Takashi. Takashi’s intentions in the services of a call girl are never explicitly explained. From his interactions with Akiko at his home, we can see that he isn’t seeking what might be expected. He mentions a wife but gives no information about her. He writes and translates books and is retired from teaching. He seems to just want the company of another human, the opportunity for dinner, wine, and discussion. We see the level of care form in the relationship from first meeting to the final moments. What begins as an unclear dynamic becomes a paternal role for Takashi. We see Akiko ignore her grandmother and take great pain in doing so, and then we see her begin to embrace having that type of figure in her life as she accepts the help of Takashi.
Akiko has attempted to keep her part time occupation a secret from those close to her by hiding it or maintaining minimal contact. However, her grandmother has somehow acquired her phone number and has traveled to Tokyo for the day in the hopes of getting to see her. She has called Akiko throughout the day and left several messages. She listens to the messages on headphones as she is traveling through the evening streets of Tokyo in a taxi headed to Takashi’s residence. As the messages play, the camera is fixed on Akiko’s face as she stares out the window and the reflections of the city play across the taxi windows. The automated voice plays introducing each message and then we hear her grandmother. She arrives at the train station in the morning and tells Akiko she will wait for her at the station in a specific spot. Later on she goes to eat lunch and tells Akiko where she will be and that she will return to the station. Throughout the rest of the day she leaves multiple messages updating Akiko on her wait. She expresses a great desire to see Akiko and the longing and sadness can be heard in her voice. Her final message says that she only has one hour left until the return train leaves and that she will wait by the statue in the square. Akiko orders the cab driver to pass by the station. As the cab circles the square, we see the statue from Akiko’s point of view. There, under a lighted statue, through a crowd, we see an older lady who is small in stature and patiently waiting. Akiko orders the driver to circle a second time. We see her again and we see the anguish in Akiko’s expression, but the cab does not stop.
This scene is effective in combining and utilizing visual, audible, and emotional cues to create eight minutes of wholly transfixing cinema. From the start of the voice messages, to the final glimpses of Akiko’s grandmother beneath the statue, the viewer’s senses and emotional foundation are engrossed. The automated phone voice is rhythmic, metered, and robotic. Her grandmother’s voice is endearing, sweet, and heartwarming. The city and lights reflecting in the cab, on the windows, and across Akiko’s face create a series of visually stunning images as a backdrop to the voices. At the same time these elements are creating a positive experience, the content of her grandmother’s messages are heartbreaking. It is a duel of opposites, and the scene leaves me emotionally torn every time.
The release is one of Criterion’s short-lived dual format Blu-ray/DVD packages. It features two discs with each disc containing the full film and supplements. The release is slim on supplements with only a forty-five minute documentary on the making of the film, a trailer, and a booklet featuring an essay by film scholar and critic Nico Baumbach. Although it is the only true supplement, the documentary is interesting. It provides a behind the scenes look at the film with footage shot by Kiarostami. It features interviews with the cast and crew and detailed information about rehearsals, costumes, and set construction. Most interestingly, it shows a look at the creation of the taxi and grandmother scene.
Like Someone in Love stands alongside Kiarostami’s other great films. It is an elegant character study and a deep look at the formation of supportive and protective relationships. The Criterion release leaves something to be desired with only one supplement (albeit an excellent one) and below average packaging with lazy cover art, but because of the film’s quality, it is well worth your time.
Criterion Grade: C –
Film Grade: A