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1 review, 1 rating



After the Storm (2016)
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by Jay Seaver

"Another Kore-eda family under intriguing strain."
4 stars

There's a typhoon in Hirokazu Kore-eda's "After the Storm", but it arrives late, too late to be the complete inspiration for the film's English language title (the original Japanese, "Umi yori mo mada fukaku", translates to "Even Deeper than the Sea"). Whoever came up with it was onto something, though; despite the understated, observational bent of Kore-eda's films, there is implied turmoil in these characters' pasts that makes how they tackle the present worth watching.

At the center is Ryota (Hiroshi Abe), who won an award for his first novel some years ago but has been working at a small firm of private investigators for so long that his description of it as research for a new book has worn thin. He has at least learned how to keep tabs on his ex-wife Kyoko (Yoko Maki) and 11-year-old son Shingo (Taiyo Yoshizawa), though his gambling keeps him from paying his alimony which may lose him visitation. So he tries to borrow from sister Chinatsu (Satomi Kobayashi) or find a valuable possession of his late father's, though he doesn't tell mother Yoshiko (Kirin Kiki) that he's looking to swipe something from the family home.

There's something about Hiroshi Abe that inspires, if not confidence, at least good feeling; he's tall and handsome enough to stick out in a crowd without being imposing, often coming off as amusingly befuddled when cast in a comedy. Here, he and Kore-eda use that charisma to remind the audience just how charming some toxic influences can be; there’s a hangdog weight to his body language, an air of guilt that pushes against his more selfish tendencies, a genuine fondness for his son that breaks through often-muted moments. It’s not an easy, boldfaced charisma, and in that way more easy to believe in his best intentions.

That’s what lets the way the rest of the movie progresses be a lesson in being let down, as the audience watches Ryota take a bad step for every one he takes in the right direction, not necessarily away from where we want him to go, but perpendicular enough as to be almost as bad. The good intentions and friendly nature draw the audience in, always making them think that, despite disappointments that came just minutes ago, this time he’ll get it right. Kore-eda does remarkably well in managing the tightrope his film must walk, never causing the audience to lose hope but never quite rising to the level of faith. Indeed, Kore-eda manages this so deftly that it takes a bit of reflection to see it as being about a man whose gambling addiction and other failings has eaten away at his family.

The film is not entirely about Ryota, though he is at the center of the story; After the Storm is an ensemble piece, with a fine cast. Abe, as mentioned, is excellent, most particularly in playing against Taiyo Yoshizawa as Shingo and especially Satomi Kobayashi as Chinatsu; the tension between Abe and Kobayashi is fantastic, a perfectly pitched look at siblings who have had their relationship strained to the breaking point, if not past, blending affection and hostility. And then there’s veteran actress Kirin Kiki, grounding everything as Yoshiko, playing it in a way that is likely more familiar to the film’s Japanese audience than Americans watching it - as maternal as she is, she’s also old and experienced enough to detach as necessary.

Each of these actors and elements are strong throughout, but they all come together best in the last act when the typhoon that has been mentioned throughout the film finally makes landfall. Those expecting a final act filled with a great deal of drama may be disappointed, as the things which seem obviously dangerous are somewhat shrugged off as not being placid but not being exceptionally risky either. It’s in this section that Kore-eda often seems at his most hopeful, implying that certain dangers are overstated and that while this is certainly a contentious family, the bonds between them are strong. There is a great deal of hope from this observation of small things and familiar interactions, although without it becoming a saccharine excuse for all the disappointing things that the characters have done.

In a lot of ways, it’s typical Kore-eda, a look at the family relationships that we oftentimes survive and, if we’re lucky, later see as strengthening. It can seem formless or meandering as a film, but it crystallizes a whole complex set of feelings even when it seems to present contradictions.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=30873&reviewer=371
originally posted: 01/02/17 23:54:33
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User Comments

4/13/17 Elizabeth Not my favorite from Kore-eda, but worth seeing! Kirin Kiki is especially terrific. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  N/A (NR)
  DVD: 15-Aug-2017

UK
  N/A

Australia
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Directed by
  Hirokazu Koreeda

Written by
  Hirokazu Koreeda

Cast
  Hiroshi Abe
  Yoko Maki
  Taiy Yoshizawa
  Kirin Kiki
  Lily Frankie
  Isao Hashizume



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