Like Father Like Son is the story of a family who discovers their 6 year old son was switched in the hospital with another 6 year old child. Most of the focus is on the family with only the one child, a workaholic father and a mother who cares for the boy. They are a very disciplined family, with strict rules, mandatory piano lessons, and significant efforts made to get their son into a prestiges elementary school. The other family is very relaxed, with the family enjoying one another more than focusing on making money, the father is very silly with his six year old son and the two younger siblings. The father is a shopkeeper, can fix anything, and his lack of drive in the area of business means the mother must work as well. The families have several meetings and go through a process of trading the boys on weekends, and eventually full-time. The workaholic father is very matter a fact in the beginning regarding the switching of the boys to their biologically appropriate family, but as the movie progresses he finds it more of a struggle. While it initially seems he is completely devoid of emotion and in the process very unfeeling towards his wife's dispair, he eventually breaks and realizes the bond he developed with the boy he raised is much more significant than the child who is a blood relation.
This movie is gut wrenching on many levels. First from the perspective of the mothers of the boys, for the children themselves, and finally for each family unit as a whole. I can see why this is a Cannes Film Festival 2013 Award Winner. I was pulled into the story and didn't want the movie to end, and then when it did I was satisfied with the ending. I felt empathy for the characters and was deeply engaged as I watched. Unfortunately watching alone left me hanging a bit, and I wish I would have watched the movie with someone else so I'd have someone to discuss it with afterward.
In the Classroom:
The film "Like Father Like Son" can be useful in the classroom in a couple of ways. First, showing Japanese family life, with two very different families, giving students a better view of the differences in how Japanese people live, especially those of different socioeconomic levels. Often a movie will only give a glimpse of one type of family or nieghborhood, and this shows life in Tokyo and a rural town. Additinoally, you see the parent(s) of both the mother and father in the primary family of focus, which have different ways of life. This would give students a better view overall of Japanese culture, because the families are so different. Second, this movie deals with family dynamics, touches on the idea of nature versus nurture, and we observe the characters processing through several different emotions. Therefore, this movie would also work for a Health or Psychology Class. What may be a challenge is the subtitles, as the movie is in Japanese, with English subtitles. The story does pull you in and I think High School students would become engaged, as long as they are adequately prepped for what they are going to see. It is a drama, there is limited dialogue at times, which in some ways is easier to keep up with the subtitles. Having a worksheet with focused note-taking or a diagram helping students organize what they see as they watch or at the end of a segment of the film would work best. Giving students the ability to keep up with the subtitles and then complete the written work after they watch. Discussion afterward in pairs and/or as a class allowing students to share what they think of the actions and what the characters might be feeling would also be appropriate. While the movies is unrated, it would be appropriate to show to High School students, as I think it would have a PG rating, if it were rated.