After The Storm (2016) – Film Review
Director: Kore-Eda Hirokazu
Cast: Abe Hiroshi, Maki Yoko, Yoshizawa Tayio
by Rachael Popow
A typhoon is brewing in the Japanese drama After the Storm, but the crumpled Ryota (Hiroshi Abe) already looks and feels like he’s been battered by the elements. His father has recently died, and while his elderly mother Yoshiko (Kirin Kiki) appears to be coping with her loss – she claims to have thrown out all her late husband’s possessions and has started attending a classical music-appreciation group – Ryota seems to be stuck in the past.
Several years ago, he wrote an award-winning novel, but there is no sign of a follow-up. Instead, the author is now working for a private detective agency, supposedly for research purposes. The job is potentially lucrative, especially as he supplements his salary by blackmailing the cheating spouses he’s been trailing. However, he gambles away what he earns instead of paying child support for his young son Shingo (Taiyo Yoshizawa).
“Fairly universal things to say about families”
Meanwhile, like his mother, his ex-wife Kyoko (Yoko Maki) seems to be moving on with her life (thanks to his sleuthing skills, Ryota known she’s seeing someone else). But when the typhoon hits, trapping the former couple and their son in Yoshiko’s flat, will the family find a way to bond?
After the Storm is gently paced and may prove a little too slow and undramatic for some tastes. Fortunately, what it lacks in incident, it makes up for with strong performances and subtle humour. If the dialogue or symbolism ever seems a little too pointed, writer-director Hirokazu Koreeda has a winning way of undercutting it.
Kyoko rejects the idea of her ex joining her in playing the Game of Life as a bad joke. And the mischievous and occasionally cutting Yoshiko is all too aware of her status as a font of hard-won wisdom – when she makes a particularly profound observation, she insists her son writes it down to include in his next novel.
Although the premise is ripe for moments of Hollywood-style redemption, After the Storm has a more melancholic undertone. Ryota clearly had a strained relationship with his late father, but he is making many of the same mistakes. So while it offers a glimpse into a way of everyday Japanese life not often seen in Western movies set in the country, After the Storm has some fairly universal things to say about families, the difficulties of making a change, and how life doesn’t always turn out the way we expected.