Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
Writer: Hirokazu Koreeda
Starring: Hiroshi Abe, Yôko Maki, Satomi Kobayashi
After the death of his father, a private detective (Abe) who struggles to pay the child support money for his estranged son attempts to re-connect with his young son and ex-wife when a severe storm leads to them all having to spend the night at Abe’s mothers.
Another of the films that I was annoyed at myself for missing at the cinema in 2017 was the latest offering from Hirokazu Koreeda (or Kore-Eda depending on which website you look at), one of my favourite current directors. He is an auteur who makes films with seemingly quite simple stories, with the key focus on giving us relatable characters that the viewer cannot help but empathise and engage with. After the Storm is apparently one of Koreeda’s more personal films, as he wrote it shortly after his visiting his mother after his father’s death.
Koreeda is a filmmaker truly blessed with a gift for keeping things seemingly very simple, but yet giving us films that are truly engaging as he writes characters that we can easily relate to and care about. This makes what are often quite contrived narratives far more forgivable, and there is no denying that there is a certain amount of contrivance to how it comes about that our protagonist spends the night with his mother, ex-wife and son.
We spend a vast majority of the first half of the film with Abe, and he is very much a character with as many imperfections as the average human being, he is a very likeable and easy-going man whose heart is in the right place but struggles to incorporate any kind of structure into his life, and is also quite a weak man, which is the reason that he has a very bad gambling habit. There is no denying that he loves both his son and ex-wife, but as his ex-wife tells him, love is not enough.
Abe may certainly be flawed, but it is in portraying his character’s flaws that Koreeda excels, nothing is ever over emphasised, but always told in a matter-of-fact way, and the story unfolds at a measured pace and Koreeda lets the audience formulate their own opinions. As with all of Koreeda’s films there is plenty of gentle humour and a profound (but never excessively schmaltzy) sense of melancholy in that there is a bit of all of us in the character of the protagonist if we were to be brutally honest with ourselves; If being brutally honest with ourselves, a vast majority of us (if not all) are all deep down not quite living the exact life we want to be and are not quite the exact person that we truly want to be, and the reasons for this are often complex.
At just under two hours, the plot to After the Storm unfolds at an intentionally measured pace, with Koreeda giving us time to get familiar with our protagonist and understand him, and therefore be able to empathise with him. The scenes that then unfold individually between Abe and his ex-wife, and then with his son are depicted in a tone consistent with the rest of the film, and Koreeda skillfully avoids them oever becoming overly sentimental, and they are profoundly moving in their own way. Likewise, the film’s ending is tonally appropriate, and concludes what is a very touching and engaging film.
Yet another profound examination of the human condition by Hirokazu Koreeda; After the Storm is an engaging and moving drama, and the fact it is predominantly grounded in realism (a few narrative contrivances aside) only serves to enhance this.