Movie Review - After the Storm

Hirokazu Koreeda has been nominated three times for Best Director at the Asian Film Awards, starting with his seventh feature, Still Walking (2009). He had several films prior that were highly acclaimed, but the film that got him the most acclaim was Like Father, Like Son (2014), which won him two awards at the 66th Cannes Film Festival. This latest feature from the Japanese filmmaker feels like a combination of those two movies. It's almost as if he took the best from Still Walking and Like Father, Like Son and mashed them together and the results are just as powerful and moving in its quiet and straightforward ways.

Hiroshi Abe is a veteran actor who is 50-years-old but still tall and gorgeous. The Japanese stunner used to be a model, but he's been acting since the early 90's. His most successful work was Thermae Romae (2013), a film that certainly showed off his sex appeal. He starred in Koreeda's Still Walking. He returns to the same director here as Ryota Shinoda, a single father who spends the night with his estranged wife and son in the tiny apartment of his widowed mother due to a typhoon in the area.

A large chunk of the film takes place during that night, but there are some incidents before, which we see leading up to it. These incidents are during the day and establish what kind of man Ryota is and why he's troubled and lonely.

Ryota is a novelist who has published a book, "The Empty Table." It doesn't seem as though the book has given him any great success. He gets by as a private eye at Yamabe Detective Agency. His boss is a former cop and a lot of his work involves spying on people, but it isn't as lucrative as one might hope. Ryota has to go to his sister to borrow money.

However, his work could be lucrative. It's simply that he blows all his money on the race track. Ryota could have a gambling problem, possible gambling addiction. It's never addressed, so he might not. His going to the race track could be him trying to get his head above water but with no luck. It is interesting to see a race track that isn't of horses but of bicyclists.

His principal issue becomes his lack of child support. He's late on his payments. He's so desperate that he's not above shaking people down. This has alienated him from his ex-wife and his son. He's further alienated when his ex-wife starts dating another man and Ryota can see his family slipping away.

While a lot of other films would concoct a lot of crazy plot-twists in order to find a path for Ryota to write and heal his family. Koreeda isn't making your typical, romantic comedy. He doesn't need crazy plot-twists. All he needs is to put his characters in a room. He lets the humor and romance unfold naturally. Nothing feels forced.

It may not seem all that exciting to learn that this movie is just a couple of people in a small apartment talking. However, Koreeda crafts good conversations. A lot of them are buttressed by Kirin Kiki who plays Ryota's mother. Kiki has been in Koreeda's previous films as well. She plays Yoshiko who is warm and funny, and she is the epitome of an amazing grandmother. She also spouts some wisdom that clearly is the wisdom of Koreeda channeling through.

One such pearl is that men can't love the present. They're always striving for something else either in the past or the future. While that pearl may not apply to all men or just men, it did feel like a truthism. It felt like it came from a truly honest place, which is what Koreeda only knows how to do.

Rated PG in UK / Canada.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 57 mins.


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