TIFF 2012: ‘Like Someone in Love’ is a troubling and oblique wonder

Like Someone in Love
Written by Abbas Kiarostami
Directed by Abbas Kiarostami
France/Japan, 2012

 Abbas Kiarostami’s Like Someone in Love wastes little time in developing its singular strangeness. As a follow-up to Certified Copy, this film doesn’t quite inhibit the unique formal prowess of said predecessor, but functions as a deliberately puzzling waltz of a film in its own right. We’re casually thrown into Kiarostami’s zone of mistaken identities and skewed realities during the film’s opening shot: we’re placed in a crowded bar and made privy to a story being told from the voice of a woman we cannot see. It’s in this instance that the director’s unwavering aura of mystery is set in motion.

The construct is Kiarostami’s own brand of playfulness, unwinding at such a straightforward and leisurely pace as to consistently call into question what the director is actually up to here. Never quite tipping his hand, the on-goings are increasingly menacing given the film’s unadorned narrative: Kiko (Rin Takanashi) is a young student working on the side as a prostitute to fund her education. She develops an unusual relationship with one of her clients, an elderly academic (Tadashi Okuno) and preferred client. The girl is aloof from the world she moves through. Before paying a visit to the older man, she takes an elongated cab ride where she despondently cycles through voice-mails from her visiting grandmother. Kiko instructs her driver to pass by a statue where her grandmother has been waiting. Her utter removal and cold detachment is made clear at this very moment.

The old man and Kiko routinely exchange small-talk and some drinks before the evening grows late and Kiko flees to bed. We’re certainly game for further interaction, but Kiarostami is wisely upending our expectations – sex is clearly out of the picture at this point. Roles and identities are called into question the following day when the professor drives Akiko to school. Akiko’s fiance confronts and mistakes the man for her grandfather, resulting in the only hint at what Kiarostami is reaching for. “I am as much a grandfather to you as I am her to her,” the professor says.

All of Kiarostami’s signature themes are strongly intact as the film nears its conclusion: Long car rides, reflecting windows, and mistaken identities. Make no mistake; Like Someone in Love is an extension of Certified Copy and a stand-alone triumph in its own right. As Akiko’s fiancé aggressively arrives in search for her during the last scene, Like Someone in Love ends on the most abrupt and satisfying note; we’re left stranded in limbo as to how it can all be placed back together.

– Ty Landis

Learn more about Like Someone in Love at TIFF 2012 here and the Toronto International Film Festival here.

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