Hirokazu Koreeda’s AFTER THE STORM
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
This movie includes a wonderfully intimate portrait of what we used to call a "ne'er-do-well." Here the main character is a middle-aged down-on-his-luck divorced novelist who now struggles as a sleazy private investigator to make child support payments. He, his former wife, and his young son all end up at the small apartment of his widowed mother as their town faces an oncoming typhoon. Drama ensues.
Complex emotional dynamics result from this mix but not of the kind we might expect from standard Hollywood fare. There's no yelling or screaming, no deep and dark secrets suddenly revealed, no last-minute sobbing change of heart. Instead we have a layered and sensitive coming together of ordinary people trying to move forward in the face of ordinary but -- to them -- seemingly insurmountable and complex odds.
The adjectives that came to my mind while watching were melancholy, bittersweet, funny, sensitive, and beautifully produced and acted.
What is most striking is lack of histrionics. The movie is built around a series of one-on-one conversations spent spread throughout the movie: old mother and son, son and divorced wife, son and child, and mother and divorced wife. That's how we learn both back stories and current states of mind.
The acting is universally excellent and natural. We get the sense that these are real people.
The filmmaker's art is also on display. While much of what we see is incredibly mundane (bus and train travel, people walking down the street, sitting down at a table to talk, making lunch, etc.) constant camera movement and occasionally very quick editing give a sense of reality. These help to overcome what might have been an almost claustrophobic emphasis on conversations that take place in the grandmother's small apartment.
See this movie if you're interested in a real "slice of life" comedy/drama. As in real life, not all problems are completely resolved. We are left hanging in several cases. This adds to the realism.
Review copyright© 2017 by Dennis D. McDonald. Viewed July 2017 at the Traverse City Film Festival, Traverse City, Michigan. In Japanese with English subtitles. To see a later version of this review published by aNewDomain, go here.