Cannes Review: ‘Like Someone in Love’ Is All Questions, No Answers

Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami's "Like Someone in Love" is a thorny trifle that toys with its audience

Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami's keen sense of the absurd is alive and well in his latest film, "Like Someone in Love." It is a trifle, like many of the complicated situations we insert ourselves into. It is also a world of pretend and make-believe, like Kiarostami's last film, "Certified Copy." In both of these movies, characters pretend to be other people in order to get through the strained social situations they find themselves in. But what is Kiarostami's point here, other than to toy with his audience? 

Like Someone in LoveA Japanese and French production, "Like Someone in Love" follows two main characters, an old sociology professor and a young call girl whom he hires for the night. But he doesn't just want to sleep with her; he wants to wine and dine her first. She refuses, choosing instead to head straight for the bed.

When we see them the next day, he's driving her to school. Shortly thereafter, they meet her fiancé and the old man is forced to pretend he is her grandfather. The fiancé doesn't know she's a call girl.

The old man is clearly attached to the girl, but the attachment is strangely conflicted. Is it paternal? Lustful? Is he trying to be the hero but simply too old for the task? What of the sociology connection? Darwin is brought up. The girl is a sociology student and the old man is an ex-professor. Are they just running down one of the basics of human nature, that men will do just about anything for the affections of a young girl? Meanwhile, the older woman who lives next door, a far more appropriate mate, can't get the old man to so much as look at her.

There is no debate about the beauty of Rin Takanashi, who plays the girl. But her character is a mess inside – damaged, disconnected from her family and working as a prostitute. Her fiancé is abusive and the only person she trusts is this grandfatherly john. Who will eventually win out — the fiancé or the "grandfather"? The two men are opposites: one is more of a physical brute, the other has the brains. Kiarostami reminds us that we are still animals, after all, and we usually win or lose mates the same way we have for decades: brains versus brawn. 

In the end, though, we are never going to get any definitive answer from Kiarostami. It isn't his objective to make a film that makes perfect sense. He wants you to reach inside knotty circumstances and try to untangle the threads of meaning for yourself. Whether you are up to the task or not will likely depend on your mood. 

The film ends on a truncated, incomplete note — you never see it coming. But perhaps that's the point.  Life is random, existence fleeting. What you want, you'll never have. What you can have, you'll never want.