In determining whether or not to see Like Someone in Love, consider if waiting for something to happen with no guarantee of a payoff is acceptable in lieu of things actually happening. For Abbas Kiarostami’s latest leisurely film, patience of the utmost degree is a virtue, seeing as casual dialogue and assured cinematography are the action. A spiritual sister to the director’s equally subtle Certified Copy, the film is as rich in things unsaid and unseen as it is poor in activity. To say that “nothing” happens would be inaccurate, though beyond the inherent beauty of the work’s pastoral nature and its relative change-of-pace freshness, such a description is not far from the truth.
Operating like a happier Michael Haneke, Kiarostami pushes technique over content throughout Like Someone in Love, an approach that sharply contrasts with the majority of films, even those of the independent variety. The Iranian filmmaker’s story of sociology student Akiko (Rin Takanashi), her moonlighting prostitution, and the reactions of two very different men plays out quietly against the neon lights of Tokyo. Through long steady shots, information is revealed through natural conversation, none of which is expository and most of which feels like the camera is eavesdropping on genuine situations. This organic style establishes a subdued yet engaging tone from the start, and while getting to legitimate plot points is an often laborious process, the anticipation is oddly suspenseful.
Well aware of traditional expectations, Kiarostami milks these scenes with master craftsmanship. Reveling in a brand of dramatic irony to which not even the audience is privy, he nudges viewers to watch car windows for clues as they reflect Tokyo’s myriad sights. Another prominent technique is that of unseen characters, including Akiko’s extended introduction and that of a nosy neighbor who lives across the alley from her latest client, Professor Takashi Watanabe (Tadashi Okuno). It’s in the combination of these forms, however, that the film achieves perhaps its greatest moment. As Akiko lounges under the sheets of Takashi’s bed, attempting to entice the old man while he persuades her to merely have supper with him, she is heard but only be seen via the blank television screen. The scene is one of expert composition and compelling drama, yet as with so many in the film, it feels mostly for show.
Things almost happening can only be exciting for so long, and with each slice-of-life sequence, the wait becomes increasingly tiresome. By the time Akiko’s volatile fiancé (Ryo Kase) appears, the potential for his eruption or discovery of her shady work is still fairly high, though the preceding dearth of action presents a more likely alternative. Up to that point, Like Someone in Love has offered such precious few turning points that the possibility for unrequited payoff seems more feasible than something of note actually occurring. That’s not to say no big bang indeed takes place, but it’s also worth noting that in a film that’s snoozy even by cliché foreign film standards, it’s fitting that one of its most interesting moments occurs when a character falls asleep. Best wishes on remaining awake.
Like Someone in Love is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.