After the Storm (2016) [Umi yori mo mada fukaku]
Cast includes: Hiroshi Abe (Still Walking), Satomi Kobayashi (Kamome Diner), Kirin Kiki (Sweet Bean)
Writer/Director: Hirokazu Koreeda (I Wish, Like Father, Like Son)
Genre: Drama | Humor (117 minutes) Japanese with subtitles
Now that the funeral’s over, Mom says she “feels liberated.” She wasted no time getting rid of Dad’s stuff, and now she has curry to make. “It needs to sit over night for the flavor to come out,” she tells Sis. Funny… it seems like you “could say the same thing about people.” Dad always had good handwriting… “His one talent,” says Mom. They remember what he used to say… “Great talent blooms late in life.” (Or not.) Meanwhile, Shinoda catches a quick bowl of noodles across from Kiyose Station. “You were a good son,” his friend says. “Dad never read a single novel (including his),” Shinoda answers. At the apartment, no one’s home, so Shinoda lets himself in. Taking a bite of the rice cake on the funeral alter, he starts looking through drawers… lottery tickets and pawn tickets. He even pawned Shinoda’s stamp collection! “I was looking for something to remember Dad by,” Shinoda tells Mom. “You’re a bad liar… unlike Dad.” As Shinoda leaves, he gives Mom money, hoping she’ll believe he isn’t in debt like Dad always was.
Shinoda works as a detective… “just research for my next novel.” Since his award-winning first novel, “Empty Tables,” Shinoda seems stuck in place. Too bad he doesn’t take after Mom, who cheerfully tells Dad’s “blue butterfly” ghost to fly away… “I’m perfectly happy without you!” As a detective, Shinoda occasionally uses information he gathers for private transactions to supplement his income. It’s kind of a low point when he shakes down a high school student, who offers a comment with the blackmail payment… “pathetic.” Shinoda even spies on his ex-wife and young son. He really wants to buy the baseball glove and cleats his boy needs… even though his ex-wife would be happy if he could just keep up with child support. That guy dating his ex-wife sure looks like he’s hoping to move in… there he is at the baseball game. Shinoda fears he’s going to lose his son. He goes to the racetrack hoping to win enough for a baseball glove and cleats but comes away even further in debt. The lottery tickets don’t pay off either. His co-worker says it’s “jealousy,” but Shinoda says it’s “responsibility.” He doesn’t want to become a useless dad, like his own father was.
When a ferocious typhoon hits at the end of a monthly visit, Shinoda, his ex-wife and son are stranded at Mom’s tiny apartment. Mom believes storms make everything fresh again. But it may take more than a storm to wash away all the disappointment. After the Storm is a warm, gentle film with no villains… just normal people, each trying to make the best life he or she knows how to make. The acting, story development and filmmaking are all perfect. The humorous touches keep the mood light. There is a lovely quality of intimacy that makes us feel like we’ve become part of the family… we can almost taste Mom’s delicious curry with its fully marinated flavors. Shinoda enjoys having time to share some childhood memories with his son… hoping the boy will come to see him as more than just a loser who’s always in debt. Shinoda can’t help but replay the other day with that high school kid, when all he could say in his defense was, “Listen, it’s not that easy to become the man you want to be.”
4 popped kernels
Trapped by a storm, an estranged family has a chance to "make everything fresh again"
Gender Style: Sensitive
Distribution: Art House
Tempo: Cruises Comfortably
Visual Style: Unvarnished Realism
Nutshell: Divorced parents can’t move on
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought Provoking