Part of the thrill - yes, thrill - of watching one of the slow, meticulously observed films by the masterful Abbas Kiarostami is in trying to anticipate where the story is going to go, and who it's going with. In the opening shot of Like Someone in Love, the camera is trained on a wide swath of tables in a Tokyo bar. We hear a woman on the phone, but we don't see her. Instead, there are trendy-looking people chatting, laughing, drinking, walking around.
And then, finally, Akiko (Rin Takanashi), who turns out be an escort, moves into the frame, and Kiarostami, making only his second feature outside his native Iran (the first, Certified Copy, with Juliette Binoche, was shot in Tuscany), is off and running.
Well, off and loping, or driving no faster than necessary down nondescript roads in the suburbs of the Japanese capital.
Akiko is from the provinces. She has been in the city for two years. She takes classes at the university, and she has become involved with a jealous, possessive guy (Ryo Kase) who must know exactly where she is and what she's doing when he's not around. This makes being a call girl something of a challenge.
And on this night, Akiko, although she doesn't want to, is being dispatched from Bar Rizzo to the apartment of an older gentleman an hour's cab ride away. He is Takashi (Tadashi Okuno), a learned professor, a widower, and he has prepared a soup of little shrimp for his beautiful guest. Like Someone in Love, then, is about what happens when these two meet. It has very little to do with sex, and much to do with family, with generational divide, with loneliness and need.
With an attention to the telling detail that one finds in a great short story, Kiarostami guides Takanashi and Okuno - and then Kase - through the mischievous and melancholy tale. It is quiet. It is lovely. And it will stay with you for a long time.