Impeccably acted, infused with tremendous empathy for its three leads, and yet not without stretches of deliberate tedium, Abbas Kiarostami’s “Like Someone in Love” invites the same multiplicity of romantic interpretations provoked by his previous film, “Certified Copy," but assuming the significance of relationships is exactly the kind of behavior that gets these characters into trouble.
It’s essentially a Tokyo story told in three movements, in which young call girl Akiko (Rin Takanashi) decides to keep her visiting grandmother at arm’s length despite a series of heartbreakingly hopeful voicemails; client Takashi (Tadashi Okuno) tries to keep company with Akiko in a more familial manner than that to which she is accustomed; and both try to keep her aggressive suitor, Noriaki (Ryo Kase), at bay once he begins snooping around.
As Kiarostami makes his way around the globe from his native Iran to Italy to Japan, his austere approach remains intact, with many interactions unfolding over lengthy takes, the action confined to cars and cafes, frequently framed by reflections from mirrors, windshields, even turned-off TV screens. “Love” would seem to be more of a piece of slice-of-life observation than an overtly meta construct along the lines of “Copy” or “Close-Up,” but his themes of art and identity persevere in this new, neon-lit landscape.
The way that Takashi chooses to describe a painting is telling (“This is the first painting whose subject is Japanese, but the style is Western”), but just as suggestive is the fact that it’s a painting about a parrot. Akiko is paid to be whatever the client wants of her, and even that simple, sexy, sad purpose becomes easily misconstrued. Plenty of one-way conversations are carried on directly with the camera to characters just out of frame, while other intentionally ignored communications - many a phone is shut off - have their repercussions. Akiko starts the film out with a bald-faced lie (to wit, “I’m not lying to you”), and even Takashi’s tasks as a translator occasionally go amiss (although the argument could be made that mine have as well; you go watch it and then tell me).
A glimpse into how three different definitions of love can find themselves quietly at odds, the interactions between our three leads are always convincing if not always compelling. Kiarostami does ratchet up the tension in the film’s final moments, ending on an awfully abrupt note that’s as frustrating as it is apt to these themes of deceit, denial and delusion. The characters are trying to glean something real from something fake before the facade comes crashing down, and in that regard, the viewer may find themselves no different.
“Like Someone in Love” is currently available On Demand in addition to playing in select cities.