In the vein of director Hirokazu Koreeda’s recent works — Our Little Sister (my review) and Like Father, Like Son — his After the Storm is another family drama. The plot spins around an elderly woman, her relationship with her son, and his relationship with his son (and ex-wife). The Japanese film, set for official American release in early 2017, closed this year’s Austin Asian American Film festival.
Yoshiko (Kirin Kiki) has been recently widowed and lives in the same small apartment she’s occupied for decades. Families in her neighborhood are aging or moving out. Her daughter Chinatsu (Satomi Kobayashi) often stops by; her troubled son Ryota (Hiroshi Abe, a regular fixture in Koreeda movies) does so less frequently. Ryota is a novelist, “researching” his next book through employment with a private detective, although really he is using funds to feed a gambling addiction.
Yoshiko hopes Ryota will reconcile with his ex-wife Kyoko (Yoko Maki, Like Father, Like Son), and it seems Ryota retains the same faulty aspirations. A younger associate accompanies him as Ryota spends a day stalking son Shingo, Kyoko, and her new wealthy boyfriend. His affection for his son is evident, but this reeks of desperation.
Koreeda expertly crafts close and honest moments, crackling with a nigh defeatist humor, among his cast of actors. Indeed, the typhoon which hits two-thirds of the way through After the Storm brings about a forced intimacy as four characters become marooned in Yoshiko’s cramped apartment for the night. Yoshiko’s husband, Ryota’s father, is omnipresent through the film — from her dreams of telling her husband off to the similarities between Ryota’s choices and his father’s past decisions.
The theme of reconciling reality with past dreams and hopes for oneself also permeates After the Storm. Ryota speaks of his childhood wishes, but is stuck in his current situation… and digging himself deeper into debt and past-due child support. Yoshiki always wanted to move out of her place, but has come to realize her limited funds won’t allow that.
While we grimace or groan at Ryota’s mistakes, the viewer still folds out hope for him. You can see in conversations with his son that he wants to be a better man. Koreeda gives us an open-ended conclusion with no definite answers, although there’s a feeling of optimism after the rain.
Originally published at cinapse.co on November 14, 2016.