Certified Copy introduced a wider range of viewers to the talented director Abbas Kiarostami, who has been carving out his place in world cinema since 1997’s Taste of Cherry. With his latest picture, he doesn’t explore his native Iran or the gorgeous landscapes of Tuscany, but the concrete jungles of Tokyo. Like Someone in Love tells the story of Akiko (Rin Takanashi), a part-time call girl whose new client, an elderly professor named Takashi (Tadashi Okuno) doesn’t want to have intercourse. This isn’t a problem for Akiko, who has a class to get to in the morning. She falls asleep in Takashi’s bed after he fails to court her traditionally (he’s prepared dinner for her, but she refuses) and he offers to drive her to her morning class. When he meets her abusive boyfriend (Ryo Kase), a failure to communicate gives Takashi the new identity of Akiko’s grandfather. To avoid confusion and in part to protect Akiko, Takashi remains her grandfather until the end of the film.
If this were a lesser film (or an American comedy – I’m looking at you, The Proposal), the mistaken-identity plotline would have been played up for laughs. Sure, when Akiko re-enters the car and finds both her boyfriend and Takashi there, the face she makes is priceless, but this film isn’t broadly drawn at all. It’s about very specific moments. For instance, while Akiko is en route to meet Takashi, she is listening to voicemail messages from her grandmother (who is oblivious to her daughter’s extracurricular activities) recorded from the bus station as she waits all day for her to meet her. If I see a better silent performance anytime soon, I’ll be very impressed. Rin Takanashi evokes all the heartbreak and apologetic guilt that comes with lying to one’s family without saying anything. In the next segment, when she first meets Takashi, the content of their discussion ties in directly to the film’s thematic content. This is the point where you know if you’re engaged with the film, depending on whether or not you’re picking up on these themes. There are similar moments sprinkled throughout Like Someone in Love, which is truly another mini-masterpiece from Kiarostami. The film isn’t plot-driven; it’s selling you on these characters and what they’re experiencing. If you’re like me, this is one of the most effective ways to tell a story. You’ll be thinking about this film for weeks after you’ve left the theater.