After the Storm – Film Review by Frank L.
Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
Writers: Hirokazu Koreeda (original story), Hirokazu Koreeda (screenplay)
Stars: Hiroshi Abe, Yôko Maki, Satomi Kobayashi
In Cinemas Now.
Ryota (Hiroshi Abe) is immersed in a mid-life crisis of some considerable depth. He was once a successful novelist but his addictive gambling habit has overwhelmed his creative spark. He now earns a little money working for a private detective agency. His marriage is bust and he is unable to pay his son’s monthly maintenance money. His life is in a mess.
A tropical storm threatens and he visits Yoshiko (Kilin Kiki), his doting mother, who lives frugally in a housing complex looking after her pennies. She is a woman of spirit notwithstanding life’s vicissitudes. She has a good relationship with her daughter-in-law and grandson. However her relationship with her son, Ryota, whom she adores, is blighted by his failed marriage and its negative consequences. In addition her son’s gambling weakness mirrors that of her recently deceased husband.
The gathering storm provides the back drop to Ryota’s faltering relationships with his ex-wife, his son and his mother. The mother is a delightful, resourceful and wise old bird who always has some food on the go. Kyoko (the ex-wife played by Yoko Maki) is a cool customer but why wouldn’t she be given Ryota’s lack of drive and his manifest failings. Shingo (their son played by Taiyo Yoshizawa) is patently unhappy with his mother’s new paramour and has a deep filial affection for Ryota. The storm provides the occasion when all three stay under the same roof in Yoshiko’s cramped apartment.
While the storm as a pretext is somewhat contrived for the three to be together, the quality of the acting of Abe, Maki, Yoshizawa and Kiki lifts this domestic drama onto a higher plane. It is also an almost credible pretext to permit father and son to indulge themselves in a little “boys being boys” bonding. This series of interconnected relationships are developed by Koreeda in an understated and calm way as the storm rages. Koreeda uses his actors to considerable advantage in fleshing out these relationships so as to give them substance.