If you’re a Type-A Personality living life at light-speed, you’re likely to find the leisurely-paced “Like Someone in Love” a slow-as-molasses snooze-fest. But director Abbas Kiarostami could care less. The Iranian filmmaker, whose earlier works include “Taste of Cherry” (1997) and “Certified Copy” (2010), has no patience for the impatient. With gentle defiance, he adjusts his film’s turn-table speed from 45 to 33 RPM’s, nudging us into the relaxed groove of his story. ADHD sufferers beware. But if you’ve grown weary of the headache-inducing roar of “Die Hard” sequels, “Like Someone to Love” is a fine filmic wine, to be savored in slow sips.
“Like Someone in Love” embraces the moment. Scenes linger, like the masterful opening sequence set in a swank Tokyo nightclub. A fatherly old man sits across the table from Akiko (Rin Takanashi), a beautiful young college student that could easily be his daughter. He suggests that she break up with a hot-tempered boyfriend. But nothing is quite what it seems. This paternal advisor is actually the woman’s pimp, and after this mundane chit-chat, he insists that she catch the next cab and visit a new client.
Surprisingly, her customer turns out to be Takashi (Tadashi Okuno), an elderly, retired professor who would rather serve soup than jump in the sack. In fact, Takashi is so indifferent to Akiko’s game attempts at seduction that his guest soon falls asleep. When morning arrives, Takashi doesn’t kick Akiko out. Instead, the considerate nebbish drives her to school. He meets her short-fused fiancé (Ryo Kase), and plays along with the young man’s assumption that he is Akiko’s grandfather. Then, the film ends with a startling, inexplicable bang… the antithesis of all that has come before.
“Like Someone to Love” suggests that our life roles are constantly changing to meet the expectations of others. Akiko might be a college student by day and w***e by night, but after meeting the lonely Takashi, she also becomes a surrogate daughter. Takashi, in turn, morphs from her would-be john into a paternal protector.
Although mistaken identity is a major theme in Kiarostami’s film, “Like Someone in Love” steers clear of huge, Hitchcockian twists. Kiarostami is more concerned with capturing the organic unfolding of everyday life, with moments both extraordinary and mundane. The film’s piece de resistance, filmed from within a cab, observes Akiko’s gradual descent into tearful regret at being unable to meet with a visiting grandmother. En route to the customer she’s been dispatched to service, Akiko listens to a trail of the older woman’s voice-mails. Initially, the messages convey an eager enthusiasm at their potential reunion, but gradually reflect resigned sadness at the reality that the visit will not come to fruition. It’s a heartbreaking sequence.
The movie culminates in a jarring tragedy that will leave many viewers scratching heads and asking, “Is this all there is?” Perhaps Kiarostami’s abrupt wrap-up is another rebellious effort to avoid the formulaic, while reflecting the random nature of human routine. In terms of drama, however, the sudden finale feels like an unfinished cheat.
By taking its time, “Like Someone to Love” achieves a refreshingly unforced intimacy. We feel invested in the unlikely relationship forged by the film’s two leads. But after becoming immersed in their story, there’s a yearning for a more satisfying denouement. As it stands, Kiarostami’s film is like a rose nearing full bloom, only to be cut off at the stem.