The young woman stares into the night in the back seat of a cab somewhere in Tokyo, listening through tons of voicemails from her grandma who came to visit her for the day but she is yet to meet her at nearly 11 pm — and she doesn’t seem willing to. Grandma left a voicemail from earlier that morning telling that she’s arrived at the station waiting for her at an easily noticeable place. Another voicemail to tell that she’s still waiting after a few hours have passed and hoping to have a lunch with her. Deep into the night, she keeps listening through them as the cab sways through traffic — another clip of grandma’s frail voice from a few hours ago telling she have already eaten by herself and now back to the place still waiting for her. And it goes on and on, right until her grandma has to catch the train back home without being able to catch a glimpse of her granddaughter. The young woman is still with her dead eyes that now begin to water. She asks to pass the station to see if grandma is still there. Indeed, the unfortunate lady is looking around in hesitation for her beloved granddaughter under a landmark statue. The young woman asks the driver to go another round to have the second chance of seeing her grandma from behind the car window. She tries to look indifferent yet she wipes her tears, but not once does she ask the cab driver to stop.
This early scene in Abbas Kiarostami’s Like Someone In Love is quite possibly the most heartwrenching moment I’ve ever witnessed in cinema.
Kiarostami is without a doubt a veteran, highly acclaimed director, but the scene’s moving catharsis goes beyond great direction alone. Anything involving the elderly is bound to touch our heart one way or another: the careful steps of their frail limbs, the hope of seeing their grandchildren, the mourning of fellow elderly friend’s passing, the forgetfulness that slowly chips away their mind. Being old is commonly associated with wisdom, yet for the younger generation, old age is often associated with fear — not because their wrinkled skin are scary, but because it represents a possibility of a lost hope. In facing growing old, we have two common fears: the thought of deteriorating physique until the point of death, and the thought of having virtually lost any chance to do anything outside the limitation of the body, money, and responsibilities. Through the eyes of Akiko, played by Rin Takanashi, we explore a few things regarding her relationship with her grandma: that she is in Tokyo for studying but turned into a high class prostitute instead, that grandma is taking care of grandpa back in their hometown, that Akiko is not ready to face her and possibly tell the truth because — most importantly — her grandma trusts her sincerely in being a good granddaughter in a big city. She would rather not meet her grandma than having to lie to her. It’s an entirely different level of honesty. It is not that old people are fragile enough that small confessions will break them completely, it’s that they actually have lived long enough to see what life has to offer, and to learn from missteps that they have done. If anything, they would want their descendants to have a better life than they do. This turns into expectations, and as many other granddaughters would do, Akiko would certainly not see her grandma’s expectations crumble into pieces. The whole movie basically runs around these ideas — a “micromanagement” approach into small conflicts in our daily life rather than big extraordinary storyline. Then, the scene alone seeks to inquire about our devout sentimentality with the elderly: do we relate our actions to the old people out of fear of one day becoming them, or out of respect of everything that they’ve been through?