Mixing understated drama, circumstantial comedy and poignant segues into rarely touched areas, After The Storm is a triumph if a quiet one. Martin Carr takes a closer look at Hirokazu Koreeda’s family drama…
In After The Storm, writer-director Hirokazu Koreeda has given us a film which encapsulates the uplifting frailty of human relationships. Looking beyond the circumstance and situation which sets up this story of dislocation, disparate moments and heartfelt epiphanies, he produces something real.
Hiroshi Abe’s Ryota is the perpetual son with potential who finds reasons to avoid fulfilling that promise. Hang dog in demeanour, affably dishevelled but poignantly sketched his avoidance of achievement defines him. His failure to exploit a natural talent resonates across every interaction he has, allowing Koreeda to instil the dialogue with bitter sarcasm and stark moments of reality. We’re slowly embroiled in an on-off relationship between himself and an ex-wife where love has waned but something still draws them together.
As much a story about realisation and bonding than inherited behaviours, Koreeda takes a fractured relationship narrative and uses it as a jumping off point to somewhere else. Ryota’s mother played by Kirin Kiki puts in a virtuoso performance creating an easy and believable chemistry between them. They exchange cuttingly sarcastic off hand comments whilst lacing each moment with an underlying affection. Similarly Yoko Maki’s Kyota wards off an ex-husband more interested in her now than he ever was when they were together, tainting conversations with regret and maligning moments with the remembrance of missed opportunities.
Koreeda also employs subtle symbolism manifested through the approaching typhoon, taking time to develop depth, define character and promote attachment through the dialogue. Those pent up emotions, repressed recriminations and final exchanges are all metaphorically linked to a storm which feels earned rather than convenient. We see the relaxed company of a father, mother and grandmother glimpsed briefly in the slow burn finale as they should be. There is a softness here which momentarily transcends marital transgressions, allowing the family to act as a unit again. Kiki and Maki’s grandmother and ex-wife are pivotal in making these moments work, just as Abe lives and breathes Ryota from tentative first moments to an honest, emotionally charged conclusion.
Mixing understated drama, circumstantial comedy and poignant segues into rarely touched areas, After The Storm is a triumph if a quiet one. Beyond tackling themes of true fulfilment it also retains a feeling of innocence in the face of staunchly adult concerns. As the wind and rain whip the side of their small tenement flat, father, son, mother and grandmother exude a sense of safety, calm, tranquillity and domestic happiness. Within the eye of this typhoon for a brief moment they relive a memory, reminding us all that time has the capacity to heal allowing people to move on. A subtle sentiment rarely captured with such measured eloquence or emotional resonance, making this minor miracle worthy of attention.