By Forrest Cardamenis | Criticwire February 15, 2013 at 1:40PM
“Like Someone In Love,” the latest film from director Abbas Kiarostami, has had a bumpy path to recognition. When it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last May, it garnered mostly mixed-to-negative reviews. Writing for The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw called it “frustrating” and stated that the film ends right when the drama gets interesting. Variety's Guy Lodge called it a “more austere and less intellectual” twin to Kiarostami’s previous film, “Certified Copy.” So far, so not so good.
But when "Like Someone in Love" came to the New York Film Festival last fall, it found its niche; Christopher Bourne of Twitch called it a “great artistic success” and Kristy Puchko of Cinema Blend called it “confident” and “thought provoking.” Now it's getting its theatrical release, and while there are plenty of critics still waiting to make their judgment, “Like Someone In Love” currently sits with a B average in our Criticwire Network. That’s not a bad grade, but it's not a unanimous endorsement either, and for a director of Kiarostami’s stature, many would call it disappointing.
But take another look at the movie's Grade Snapshot. “Like Someone In Love” has a large percentage of A’s -- and a handful of D’s. While most critics took a seat comfortably between the extremes, there is a sizable camp on each end, and here’s what they each have to say.
PRO: The film is undeniably beautiful.
“’Like Someone in Love’ offers its most complete pleasures as a quietly pristine showcase for Kiarostami's undiminished craft, its most laborious stretches still wowing with their poised camera placement and confidently spare editing schemes.” -- Guy Lodge, Variety
CON: Almost distractingly so.
“What is frustratingly conventional is the character of Akiko, the blankly child-like beauty, as well as the focus on Japan's conspicuous sex trade. 'Like Someone in Love' boasts gently insightful moments, but sometimes Kiarostami just seems like a wide-eyed tourist in unbuttoned Tokyo, the anti-Tehran.” -- Mark Jenkins, NPR
PRO: The visuals are the depth.
“The director is even able to suggest this just within the 1.85:1 widescreen frame itself: The opening scene is a brilliantly dizzying example of using the entirety of his film frame -- foreground and background, on- and off-screen space—to suggest both character and environment, packing in so much drama and detail that one is forced to roam around the frame to keep track of it all. And speaking of backgrounds, Kiarostami's choice of backgrounds in his mise-en-scène to suggest character.” -- Kenji Fujushima, Slant Magazine
CON: The only depth.
PRO: It’s full of ideas.
“'Like Someone In Love' explores different kinds of love, from love for sale, to ancient unrequited love, to obsessive possessiveness, to filial love, to familiar duty and devotion.” -- Yehudit Mam, I’ve Had It With Hollywood
CON: But it’s all for naught.
“Kiarostami spends the picture toying with idea of image and identity, but unfortunately, 'Like Someone In Love' lacks the intellectual depth and forward momentum of ‘Certified Copy.’” -- Kevin Jagernauth, The Playlist
PRO: The ideas may be abstract, but few films are as brilliant.
“Few films have been so comprehensively attuned to the mechanics of isolation or how our need to define each other pivots on that process, and—as in all of his masterpieces -- Kiarostami’s patience eventually allows his most abstract ideas to collect into a dramatic moment of palpable suspense.” -- David Ehrlich, Reverse Shot
CON: Those “few films” do it better.
“Some movies tackle this in a much more obvious way. Lynch's 'Mulholland Drive' is the most obvious and mainstream example. 'Certified Copy' taps into the stream-of-consciousness logic, as well, but also has larger themes about authenticity, forgery and false masks.” -- Jordan Hoffman, Badass Digest
PRO: The dialogue is riveting.
“What this film, like 'Certified Copy,' does so well is in its ability to hold your attention for long periods of time while the setting and camera barely change.” -- Andrew Robinson, Film School Rejects
CON: But not much else is.
Ultimately, “Like Someone In Love” is a dense, ambiguous work, so much so that no number of quotes on this page are going to make up your mind for you. Some see the ending as frustrating and incomplete; others see it as a perfect, climactic breaking point. Some find it too abstract and too tentative, or as a less-impressive copy of "Certified Copy;" others find it remarkable in its look and compelling in its content. Perhaps Noel Murray said it best in his review at The A.V. Club, when he called the film "the stuff of good conversation." So whether or not the vague, probing beauty of "Like Someone In Love" works for you, it’s certainly worth your time, because nobody is going to be able to tell you which one you will think. Films this ambitious deserve to be seen.