Recently, I was involved in a discussion with a good friend about the films of Abbas Kiarostami, and I mentioned that this film was one of my particular favorites of his repertoire. Unlike myself, I looked at reviews of this film and found that they seemed almost disturbingly skewed towards the negative in comparison to Kiarostami’s earlier works. (Author’s note: this does not mean this film was received poorly, but its overall rating is significantly lower than both Certified Copy and Taste of Cherry.) I want to examine what makes this film one of my favorites of his library.
Most of Like Someone in Love’s more pivotal moments come from not what is being said, but what is being absorbed both through its visuals and non-verbal communications. There are multiple long car ride scenes in the film, and not only do these scenes illustrate the lengths Akiko (played by Rin Takanashi) has to go to in order to do her job, one that is implied is less than an ideal situation for her in many ways, they also show the viewer how the world impacts our characters as individuals as well. We see differences in social status, in types of regional living, of manner of common transport, all of these are not explicitly told to us but rather shown to us organically. Why these are all factors that matter are heavily woven into the plot, and primarily left open to the viewer’s discretion. Although a number of reviews have claimed this movie is about “nothingness” and is devoid of purpose, I disagree heavily: there is something woven into the narrative that is both explicit, but fair criticism would be that it’s so largely left to the viewer to discern that it may be “boring” for some. To each their own, but I personally love a film that challenge my intellect directly in such a manner and doesn’t require a constant bombardment of action or drama. Each character in this film feels authentic and real, and though the premise may be minimalist and simple, its conveyance of an entire range of human emotion is not, and the fact each person feels utterly believable is a triumph in and of itself.
It also helps that on a technical level, this film is damn near flawless. Each frame of this film has perfect composition, is always in proper focus, and the audio composition is nearly perfect. Whenever the audience hears any music, it exists within the universe of the characters. In fact, every angle, every sound, and every point of impact you could imagine is executed with such deliberate effort and care, because each frame of this film is conveying something to the viewer. Whether or not the viewer is necessarily engaged with what is happening on screen is where I think this film “loses” people, because while there is plenty to dissect with every frame in this film, that doesn’t necessarily mean that meaning and content is understood the same way by different viewers, and it’s not necessarily interesting. In fact, the main issue with what this film depicts is that it is not exactly a subject that is broadly appealing. Many of the greatest films also contain multiple levels of text and subtext, but this film definitely focuses on that subtext for better or for worse. As to myself, being able to take this film apart on an artistic level is definitely what I find fantastic and Kiarostami’s style definitely speaks my “language”, so perhaps that is why it being difficult to decipher doesn’t really bother me as much as it seems to have bothered others.
What truly makes this film special to me, however, is its absolutely rich atmosphere- it speaks to me on such an exceptionally deep level both emotionally and intellectually. Perhaps this film is not for everyone, or perhaps even for “most” people, but to me it’s a deeply personal story whose origins is similar to the end product- one of a woman in a wedding dress that Kiarostami once saw while in Japan. An image that told him a vast array of stories, perhaps each one as true as the next, and inspired him to create a story that is not the story of that woman, but rather one that delivers the same type of impression- one that refused to leave your head long after you’ve witnessed it. And that’s exactly what this film does for me. In the Blu-ray special features for this movie, Kiarostami is being interviewed and is asked why the setting had to be in Japan. In the way that exemplifies who he was the most, his answer was equally simple and avoidant: that sushi is delicious. Along with his sushi, so is his film: delicious. I give this film a 9 out of 10.