Award-winning and critically acclaimed director Hirokazu Kore-eda returns with a powerful story of family ties remade, drawing more deeply than ever on his personal memories.
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After the Storm (2016)
Director/Screenplay: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Starring: Hiroshi Abe, Kirin Kiki, Yoko Maki and Sosuke Ikematsu
Running time: 117 minutes
Dwelling on his past glory as a prize-winning author, these days private detective Ryota can barely pay child support. As his widowed mother and ex-wife seem to move on with their lives he struggles to find a lasting place in the life of his young son. A stormy summer night offers them a chance to truly bond again. Portions of this review appeared in Nikkei Voice.
“Kore-eda again expertly chronicles dysfunctional family dynamics, mixing comedy and pathos while supported by a cast of some of Japan’s nest actors.”
Director Hirokazu Kore-eda has given us some of the most affecting Japanese films of the past decade. A new Kore-eda release is eagerly awaited by both Japanese audiences and foreign cinephiles, and his new film, After the Storm, will not disappoint those high expectations. Like master director Yasujiro Ozu, to whom he has often been compared, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s nest films explore the theme of family. The director has assembled a cast of some of his most reliable actors, including Hiroshi Abe (Still Walking), Yoko Maki (Like Father, Like Son) and Kirin Kiki (Our Little Sister), for another understated assessment of Japanese family dynamics.
Ryota is prize-winning author who has been abandoned by his muse and it is now 15 years since his last novel. He ekes out a living as a small-time detective, a job that he deludes himself into believing is research for his next book. His father has just died and he struggles with a destructive gambling addiction that burns through the money he should be giving as child support. As his mother and ex-wife move on with their lives, Ryota fears he will be left behind.
Renewing contact with his estranged family, Ryota struggles to take back control of his existence and to find a lasting place in the life of his young son. One night a typhoon strikes. The fractured family is forced to spend the night together at Ryota’s mother’s tiny danchi apartment, offering up the stage for melodramatic reconciliation or the final dissolution of the family. This being Kore-eda we know it will be neither but something with much greater subtlety—but no less power.
After the Storm feels like a lighter companion piece to Kore-eda’s 2008 masterpiece Still Walking, lacking the immediacy of Like Father, Like Son, but it will probably be more engaging—for non-Japanese audiences anyway—than the more emotionally muted Our Little Sister. Abe brings a seedy, careworn charisma to the central role, at once charming, selfish and self-destructive. Behind Ryota’s bluff and bonhomie there is the regret of a man stranded between what he should have done and who he could have been. Of his characters Kore-eda states: “Burdened with a hopeless reality, and unable to give up on one’s dream—it is for this very reason that happiness remains unattainable.”
When a desperate client asks, “how did my life turn out like this?” Abe’s eyes issue a barely perceptible inch of self-recognition. It is one of many nice moments in a subtle and nuanced performance. Despite the serious themes, though, this is Kore-eda’s most humorous film to date and there is great comic interplay between Ryota, his deviously flighty mother (Kiki) and his perpetually exasperated elder sister (the always excellent Satomi Kobayashi).
This is a very personal work for Kore-eda and he has said, “The film incorporates the changes that occurred within me after my mother and father died, it’s the film that is most coloured by what I am. After I die, if I’m taken in front of God or the Judge of the Afterlife and asked: ‘what did you do down on earth?’ I think I would first show them After the Storm.”
After the Storm will be screened at the JCCC on May 18. For more info, visit jccc.on.ca