"Kiarostami has made a film that will fascinate some and bore others"

A year after competing at Cannes, legendary director Abbas Kiarostami arrives with only his second film made outside of his native Iran. 2010's Italian set Certified Copy was a puzzling if not intriguing film and Like Someone in Love isn't much different. Despite the Tokyo setting and all-Japanese cast, this is undoubtedly a Kiarostami film. With its often slow, minimalist plot and open-ended themes, Kiarostami has made a film that will fascinate some and bore others.

We follow 24 hours in the life of student Akiko (Rin Takanashi), moonlighting as a prostitute to pay for her education. As she deals with a jealous boyfriend (Ryo Kase), estranged family members, and a pushy manager ("pimp" just isn't the right word here), it quickly becomes clear that Akiko isn't happy. Despite wanting to meet with her visiting grandmother, she reluctantly agrees to see a client, Takashi (Tadashi Okuno) instead, provoking a heart-wrenching scene then plays out in a taxi where Akiko listens to an increasingly erratic series of voicemails from her grandmother and realises that she's made the wrong decision.

Long scenes of dialogue, static cameras, and extended periods of silence give this film a slow pace, but the patient viewer is rewarded with a number of subtly complex moments. We are not told much about Akiko's client, only that he is an important man. On arrival, it becomes apparent that Takashi, a retired professor, is more interested in companionship than lust. Something that Akiko too is in dire need of. We see a startling transformation as she sheds her meek, melancholy exterior before what she thinks will be a passionate night with her client. She begins to act "like someone in love" as the Ella Fitzgerald song of the same name plays quietly in the background. Later, the pair form a friendship when Akiko is confronted by her boyfriend and the film comes to a head. To go any further would give away the entire story, however with a film like this, its not so much the plot points but how they are presented that is important. Akiko's tragic existence plays out at an agonisingly slow pace and certain lines of dialogue leave the viewer with much to think about. Akiko's boyfriend believes that they should get married despite the fact that their relationship clearly isn't a healthy one. He argues that after marriage "she won't have a choice," concerning whether she loves him or not. Earlier, Akiko's manager tries to convince her to see the client, telling her "you don't have a choice," before contradicting himself later claiming "I don't force you to work." The film is covered with moments like this and, as such, can be a very worthwhile experience.

The film's Japanese setting is an interesting one. Many simple aspects of the story take on a new level of complexity when placed in alien surroundings. The high class sex industry that is presented here seems worlds away from the gritty portrayal of prostitution often seen in American and European films. Even Takashi's relationship with his neighbour takes on a strange form that will seem bizarrely humorous to western audiences. As a foreigner looking in, Kiarostami manages not to fall into the cliche of presenting Tokyo simply as a vast urban sprawl. All neon lights and tinny commercials playing from every street corner. Instead he gives us a much more personal story, one which could probably have been set anywhere, but which is enhanced by being set in Japan.

Like Someone in Love can often feel like a riddle, wrapped in an enigma. Some viewers will be left cold by the film's inability to really explain anything and the apparent pointlessness of it all. Others will be enraptured by the questions it asks about love, lust, marriage and even simple human relationships. Some will be bored by long, meandering conversations and others drawn in by strong acting performances, especially from the lead role. Like Someone in Love is a truly polarising film, but one that will be rewarding for many audience members.