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Film Review: After the Storm

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Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, After the Storm is a great character study that explores the ideas of responsibility and family. Both touching and funny, the film is a well-crafted and engaging watch.

Credit: Roger Ebert

The film is about prize winning novelist and private detective Ryota (Hiroshi Abe), who is trying to keep in touch with his son Shingo (Taiyo Yoshizawa) and ex-wife Kyoko (Yoko Maki), whilst coming to terms with the death of his father.

His increasingly difficult financial situation, and tendency to fall for the same vices as his father, leads Ryota to decisions that do more damage than good to his fragile relationships. With the help of his mother, Yoshiko (Kirin Kiki), Ryota gains the chance to re-connect with his family once again as they take refuge for the night from a fierce typhoon.

After the Storm is a great character driven story. Ryota is a fascinating protagonist who struggles to see himself for who he really is for most of the film. Between gambling and dishonesty, Ryota’s actions are often questionable. However, it’s his very human, relatable motivations that keep him likeable as a character. It becomes more clear throughout the film that Ryota is desperate to keep connected to his family which, combined with Hiroshi Abe’s understated yet convincing performance, makes you understand why he is doing what he is.

The film carries the underlying theme of fathers and sons throughout. Although Ryota’s father is already dead at the start of the film, we begin to learn what kind of man he was as it goes on and realise that Ryota is turning out to be quite similar. This theme continues with Shingo, as Ryota tries to be a good father but struggles not to pass on his own bad habits.

Everyone in the film acts considerably well with Yoko Maki being very good despite only being in the film for a short while. Easily the best performance though goes to Kirin Kiki as Ryota’s mother. Whilst bringing much of the humour to the film, Kiki is also at the heart of some very touching moments. For much of the film, her character is the lifeline that keeps Ryota in touch with everyone else. Both Kiki and Abe have great chemistry on screen and their mother son relationship makes for both the film’s funniest and most heartfelt scenes.

The film is consistently humorous throughout. Despite the more serious nature of Ryota’s challenging situations, the film is filled with some very witty lines that help keep the overall tone light.

After the storm is also very well directed with much of Hirokazu Koreeda’s work on it being focussed around helping the audience sympathise with Ryota. A lot of the film takes place in Yoshiko’s apartment and Koreeda utilises this space with some excellent shots that help say more about the characters than any dialogue could. This is a testament to his filmmaking as he relies very little on expository dialogue and instead tells much of the background to the story visually.

Overall After the Storm is a great watch. It is an interesting story with well written, underplayed characters, who are ultimately the best part of what is a very well made film.

After the Storm is out now distributed through Arrow Film Distributors.

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