In a domestic crisis that’s hard to fathom, two Japanese families of vastly different economic circumstances learn that their six-year-old boys were switched at birth. Mortified, the hospital advises a swap before it’s too late, but that moment has long passed (the kids hurt over it too much): Hirokazu Kore-eda’s nuanced heartbreaker resourcefully makes drama out of marital recriminations, absentee parenting and the prickly question of nature versus nurture.
In the director’s sympathetic style, no one is strictly a villain: A nurse offers a shocking revelation, but it’s not as harsh as some of the dialogue that flies between torn parents, vying for the custodial high ground. (The movie is also rooted in a clash of bank accounts, with money not always prevailing.) The way forward for both clans involves a mutual concern extending beyond blood, making this a potent social-issues film from Japan’s most consistently excellent voice. Even if you’re not boned up on your classic Ozu family tragedies, see it before Spielberg does his remake.
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