Title: After the Storm (2016)
Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
Stars: Hiroshi Abe, Kirin Kiki, Yôko Maki
Bias: I’ve always associated Hiroshi Abe with Godzilla 2000 (1999).
In a Nutshell:
Ryôta Shinoda (Hiroshi Abe) is a washed-up author who wrote an award-winning novel over fifteen years ago. Unfortunately, Ryota’s life has turned out a lot differently than what he expected. Now he works as a sleazy detective, wastes his money on lottery tickets, and spies on his ex-wife Kyôko (Yôko Maki) and her new boyfriend.
After his own deadbeat father dies, Ryôta decides to patch up things with his family. Everybody, however, has moved past him. His mother Yoshiko (Kirin Kiki) has thrown out her late husband’s stuff and picked up a new interest in Classical music. Kyôko, meanwhile, is happy with her boyfriend and restricts Ryôta’s visits with their son Shingo (Taiyô Yoshizawa) to once a month because he’s constantly skipping out on child support.
Though it seems like his old life is gone, Ryôta is determined to save his relationship with his ex-wife and son. On his monthly visit with Shingo, which comes on the same day as a typhoon, Ryôta plots to reconnect with Kyôko and his son before he finds himself out of their lives for good.
Director Hirokazu Koreeda has often been compared to Golden Age Japanese directors like Mikio Naruse and Yasujirô Ozu. I’ve never seen any movies from Naruse, but I felt a bit of an Ozu-like style in After the Storm. Like Ozu’s classic post-war work, this is a quiet and subtle drama, completely devoid of big melodramatic scenes and sappy plot twists.
The movie’s restrained style doesn’t mean it lacks catharsis or warmth though. It’s actually quite moving and funny. In one notable scene, for example, Ryôta blackmails a high school boy so he can get child support money for Kyôko. We cringe and laugh at Ryôta when he acts like this, but we also can’t help but empathize with him.
Ryôta might be the center of the story, but all the characters really shine here, each with their own personalities and depth. Even Ryôta’s late father, a deadbeat who was always running off to the pawn shop, turns out to be a lot less shallow than initially thought. There are plenty of little things, some of them sad, others beautiful, that really attach the audience to Ryôta and his family.
Choice Quote: “I wonder why it is that men can’t love the present. Either they just keep chasing whatever it is they’ve lost, or they keep dreaming beyond their reach.”
To Go, to Rent, or to Netflix:
After the Storm would definitely be worth going out to see. I rented it from Amazon, but it played in select American theaters in March 2017.