PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Reviews

‘After the Storm’ Is a Moving Story About People Trapped Between the Past and the Future

Hiroshi Abe in After the Storm (2016)

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest domestic drama, this one about a spiraling writer and the family he’s disappointing, is tightly observed as always but slighter than usual.


After the Storm

Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Cast: Ryota Shinoda, Yoko Maki, Taiyo Yoshizawa, Kilin Kiki
Rated: NR
Writers: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Year: 2017
US date: 2017-3-17
Website
Photos
Trailer

When is success or hunting for it a trap? Is it better to have dreamed of great things and fallen short or to have never had ambitions at all? Those are a couple of the questions that Hirokazu Kore-eda’s TV-like melodrama about wayward fathers and disappointed women After the Storm tangles with. Fortunately for the viewer, Kore-eda leaves those questions mostly hanging in the air and not verbalized, leaving the screen to a group of characters who are less like a family than a house of cards just waiting to be blown down by the typhoon everybody is waiting for to strike.

Although things kick off just after the death of his father, Kore-eda’s protagonist, Ryota (Hiroshi Abe), doesn’t seem that torn up about it. Neither does his mother Yoshiko (Kilin Kiki), a cheerily down-to-earth fusser and housekeeper given to dry bon mots like “new friends at my age only means more funerals.” Yoshiko is not so secretly glad to be rid of the bum, while Ryota picks through his dad’s things, barely trying to hide that he’s looking for things to pawn.

Several years back, Ryota was something of a minor sensation. His novel, The Empty Table was published to some acclaim and won an award. Since then, things haven’t gone too well, but we have every indication that this is entirely Ryota’s fault. Lean and raggedly handsome, he carries himself like some nobleman gone to seed who has no urgency about ever pulling things together. He lives apart from his divorced wife Kyoko (Yoko Maki) and their son Shingo (Taiyo Yoshizawa), and seems too lost in his own head to ever truly reconnect with them. Like his father, Ryota has a gambling problem, and tries to cover it up by running side-scams in his day-job as a private investigator. Those bets at the track, even the sure things, don’t pay for themselves, after all.

This part of Kore-eda’s story has the makings of a knotty little noir where small entanglements blow up into grander conflicts, the kind of thing that Kurosawa was knocking out earlier in his career during those morally shady postwar years. Needy and shambling, he’s compromised from the jump. There’s a neatly choreographed bit where Ryota and his younger partner -- who tolerates Ryota’s lousy work habits and general louche behavior almost for entertainment -- play double agent with a client they’ve been following but offer her a deal to spy instead on the man who hired them: her husband.

The workaday Japanese urban environment, all undistinguished side streets and slightly dilapidated apartment complexes, would have lent itself quite nicely to a story heavier with elements like this, bookies and scammers and confidence men. But Kore-eda pulls Ryota from that world once his bona fides as slowly disintegrating middle-aged disaster have been established. Instead, at around the halfway point, Ryota ends up back at the apartment of Yoshiko, along with Kyoko and Shingo, as the latest typhoon of the season is closing in.

By all rights, this should have meant a bottling up of emotions and frustrations. And Kyoko, at least, finally lets fly at Ryota, the ever-prodigal son who Yoshiko still dotes on as the boy with the good grades who became a novelist. The dynamic of this tightly packed apartment, where there doesn’t appear to even be any room for anyone to unfurl their true feelings, provides a good platform for Kore-eda’s perceptively written and beautifully acted but somewhat stagey final act.

When Yoshiko lets Ryota know that he’s never seemed happy in the present, but instead was “always lost in the past but chasing the future”, viewers will nod right along with her wryly delivered wisdom. But it’s too close to a moral, and as such, helps crystallize what keeps this movie from ranking near Kore-eda’s best. Set against the stark class divisions and primal fears of Like Father, Like Son (2013) or the graceful sweep of Our Little Sister (2015), both marvels of drum-tight prevision, the roaming After the Storm can’t help but feel more slight and inconsequential.

Without much at stake, Ryota will keep on doing as he has done before, as his family pulls ever further away from him, out of self-preservation if nothing else. That leaves the movie functioning as essentially a core sample taken from this family’s interior. They’re engaging individuals, to be sure; Kore-eda’s mastery of the minuet of family relationships ensures that the film remains strongly entertaining drama. But that’s the problem with being an artist -- after a movie like 2008's Still Walking, for a filmmaker Kore-eda, it’s hard not to want to demand more.

6

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.