After the Storm
Dir: Hirokazu Koreeda
Starring: Hiroshi Abe, Yoko Maki, Satomi Kobayashi, Taiyo Yoshizawa, and Lily Franky
There is a moment in director Hirokazu Koreeda’s quiet and affective character study film “After the Storm” when you’ll wonder if you should continue to support the main character Ryota and his quest for betterment. It’s one of Mr. Koreeda’s strength that the viewer continues to follow the wayward path of the primary character; an emotional feat and quality the director is becoming quite accomplished at achieving. Look no further than “Still Walking” and “Like Father, Like Son” from the director’s catalog to see how complicated life events are intertwined within the family dynamic by the auteur.
Ryota (Hiroshi Abe) is a former literary sensation still dwelling on his past success. Time hasn’t been so kind to Ryota’s writing efforts, he currently works as a private investigator trying to convince himself that the job is research for a new book. Apart from this disappointment, Ryota is also a terrible gambler who feeds this habit with his child support money. After the death of his father, Ryota is offered another chance to establish a new image in the mind of his mother and during a summer storm he is also given the opportunity to create a lasting bond with his son.
Ryota isn’t the nicest guy, we get that from the very beginning of the story as he sneaks into his mother’s apartment, riffling through the place trying to find a piece of art from his recently deceased father that he believes is worth money. Mr. Koreeda doesn’t shy away from portraying Ryota as he is, troubled and flawed; he also does this with other characters as well. Yoshiko, Ryota’s mother, is blunt and honest with her son in a way only a mother with unconditional love would. These characters, along with Ryota's son and ex-wife, serve as the foundation for the entire film.
“After the Storm” has a narrative that doesn’t necessarily play a pivotal role in the film, it’s never really about the storm that strands Ryota in close proximity with the people that he has failed during his life. Instead, it’s the character journey of Ryota and the connections that he makes with those around him that promotes the real purpose here.
The performances are what holds the film together, specifically the downtrodden composition of Ryota that is near perfectly portrayed by Hiroshi Abe. The actor, with messy hair, unkempt cloths, and a consistently gloomy face, embodies all the sadness, disappointment, and regret that have come to define the character.
There are a few moments when the film begins to get away from Mr. Koreeda, the balancing act of the tone is well accomplished but some of the movements meant to display Ryota’s healing with his ex-wife or ultimate understanding of his role in the life of his son seem to happen a little too late. Still, there are some really great moments accomplished in the film and the journey of the central character is engaging. “After the Storm” is a slow operating film, one that requires some patience, but it is nonetheless worth the time to experience a film that lives in an unhappy world yet somehow operates a tone that can be surprisingly charming and witty.
3.75 out of 5.00