After the Storm
Hirokazu Kore-eda, director & writer
Starring: Hiroshi Abe (Ryota Shinoda), Yōko Maki (Kyoko Shiraishi), Taiyô Yoshizawa (Shingo Shiraishi), Kirin Kiki (Yoshiko Shinoda), Satomi Kobayashi (Chinatsu Shinoda)
Hirokazu Kore-eda, the much-lauded Japanese auteur, has come up trumps again with his new family drama set during a season of typhoons, After the Storm. Like many of his previous films, After the Storm was given a prestigious spot at the Cannes Film Festival. It appeared in the Un certain regard section; his previous film Our Little Sister competed for the Palme d’Or and the one before that, Like Father, Like Son won the festival’s Ecumenical Prize. Kore-eda has been a major figure in the international art cinema scene since the overwhelming success in 1998 of After Life, an astonishingly witty and dramatic tale about a group of a people waiting in Purgatory to be interviewed by a jury to see if they qualify for Heaven or Hell.
In After the Storm, Kore-eda’s best qualities as a writer and director are on display. His literate script is astute, wise and funny. The camerawork, though never flashy, catches the key moments in scenes with a documentary precision. As always, his actors are terrific, giving immensely human performances with occasional profound moments. Particularly moving and brave in terms of their emotional vulnerability are Hiroshi Abe as the brilliant but unfulfilled son of a wonderfully wise aging mother played by Kirin Kiki.
After the Storm, like all of Kore-eda’s work, is about many things: the strange ways that love can be manifested; how loss can be endured; the drama and comedy of family life and the depths that people can descend into without losing their sense of self-worth.
It’s a film about a divided familial group, but the key figure is Ryota, an award-winning novelist, who lacks the will to write and is spending his days as a penny ante detective. Ryota is addicted to gambling and always seeks the easy way out of his problems. But he is also charming, intelligent and still in love with his now divorced wife and son. Kyoko, his wife, and Shingo, his son, love him but are cautious: Ryota seems incapable of making the right decisions for himself or them. Ryota’s sister Chinatsu no longer respects him; just like their recently deceased father, he’s gambled away her affection. Yoshiko, his mother, is made of sterner stuff: she sees through him—just as she did her husband—but still adores him.
All of these people, who love and fear each other, are stuck in Yoshiko’s apartment during a typhoon except for Chinatsu who leaves just before the storm’s fury hits. It is here where Kore-eda’s work hits its peak. Set up like a stage play, the truthful, appalling but loving feelings of Ryota, Kyoko, Shingo and Yoshiko come to the fore in a manner that resembles that of Eugene O’Neill.
Let’s face it: films like After the Storm come and go in a heartbeat. And there are far fewer DVD stores than before. If this film intrigues you, go and see it this week. You won’t regret the trip.
Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus
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