In the theater of our own lives, we are the protagonists. We follow ourselves, identify with ourselves, and become invested in the outcomes of our own actions. Thus, we must assign to the other people in our lives supporting roles, giving them some aspect of importance or relevance to our own lives in order to discern where they fit into the narrative we have created for our own struggle through existence. Because of this, it’s not hard to imagine a situation in which our desire to bestow another identity on someone might fold itself into a not entirely malicious deception, exploding finally into a moment of cumulative individual assertion of independent assignment.
These may seem like heady words, and yet they barely do justice to the theme that I think I glimpsed at the depths of your story, Like Someone In Love. There is such an enigmatic, elegant uncertainty to the world that you create that to claim a singular and correct understanding of the events and characters in your tale seems like an act of egotism, a trap set by the director. Yet one feels compelled toward some kind of understanding, in spite of the fact that everything we hear from every character is either a lie, the explication of a lie, or a dissemblance of the truth.
Akiko (Rin Takanashi) is a student in Tokyo who, at the start, is attempting to navigate a thorny phone conversation with her controlling, paranoid boyfriend. He wants to know where she is, why she can’t see him, and what all of her plans are. She evades, she enlists others to help her in her deception, and yet in the end she knows she is trapped, that all of her words will eventually come back to tie a noose around her neck. Yet she has to lie, because she wants to live up to the role that her boyfriend has cast for her in his life, that of the virginal fiancee. The truth, however, is that Akiko is a prostitute, and tonight she is going to meet an elderly professor outside of the city.
This is Takashi (Tadashi Okuno), a kind, polite old man who is looking for companionship more than a romantic encounter. He engages Akiko in polite conversation, prepares a meal native to her region of Japan, and does everything he can to make her comfortable. Still, he’s a john, and Akiko tries to fit him into this role by undressing and climbing into his bed, rebuffing his offers of food and drink.
From here your story moves in unexpected and yet firmly grounded directions. Abbas Kiarostami, your director, deploys any number of the directorial tricks from his previous film, Certified Copy, in service of exploring yet another story that explores the realms of how much perception and self-deception can form our lives. The opening 15 minutes of your story is a masterful act of constantly shifting the viewer’s perceptions of the story being told, the source of truth, and eventually the understanding of what any of this is even building toward. This is all done through camera angles, acting, lighting, and editing. It’s a marvelous way to begin, and moves effortlessly into another scene set entirely in a cab – the first of a few car set scenes that not only mimic Certified Copy visually, but also narratively.
There’s far too much to explore in your story. The act of attempting to do so in any meaningful way without spoiling your story is almost laughable, and yet there are gorgeous, generous touches in both dialogue and story that make you well worth an uncertain, uninformed viewing. Characters shift in our empathy, stories are told and histories meted out with naturalistic conservatism. Nothing is as it seems and yet everything is as everyone says. There’s not a story told which someone does not believe to be true, and in this we find the strangest aspect of your story.
Usually, in a film like you, characters would be seeking to pull the wool over the eyes of their peers. Instead, you present us with a world in which the object of a deception is almost entirely responsible for their own misguided notions. The lies we tell ourselves are important not just to us, but to the people who want to be seen in a light that will make them necessary to us. That is how we are brought to the final moments in your story, when fake lives and real lives collide, transmute, self-fulfill and collapse.
Telling the truth can, at times, be an act of malice, or require courage greater than that of which we are capable. Cowardice and a sense of fairness make us hold our tongues as those around us create more and more elaborate lies for us to live within. We aren’t spinning the web, but we are not stopping the weaving, either. And in the end, that kind of lie-through-inaction could be more damaging than all the falsities and half-truths one could ever speak.
It’s a fantastic film that not only takes that idea as it’s chief theme, but manages to say as much with nuance and subtlety in the midst of a gripping, engrossing story. You, Like Someone in Love, are that film.
With something like love,
Brian J. Roan