Cannes Film Review: ‘After the Storm’

Hiroshi Abe, Yoko Maki, Kirin Kiki, Taiyo Yoshizawa, Soryo Ikematsu, Satomi Kobayashi, Lily Franky,  Isao Hashitsume, Kanji Furutachi. (Japanese dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5294966/

“A stew needs time for the flavors to sink in; so do people,” observes the sage matriarch of “After the Storm.” The same could be said for Hirokazu Kore-eda’s filmmaking, which keeps the melancholy tale of a broken family reunited briefly by a typhoon on a slow simmer until the last act, which is sprinkled with small epiphanies about our humble existence. Featuring an uncomplicated plot and easily relatable personalities, this is a divertissement compared with the thematic heft of “Like Father, Like Son.” Still its gentle contemplation of life’s disappointments and human inadequacy may draw new recruits beyond the director-writer’s euro-arthouse base.

The character arc of a deadbeat father struggling to win back the love and respect of his estranged wife and son is one often found in pugilist films. But for Kore-eda, it’s a means to rework past themes in his family dramas, such as the pain of a child’s inability to fulfill parental expectations (“Still Walking”), the impact of divorce on children (“I Wish”) or the meaning of hereditary relations (“Like Father, Like Son”). Accentuating the sense of a continuing saga is the casting of Kirin Kiki (“An”) and Hiroshi Abe (Thermae Romae), who reunite after “Still Walking,” in which they also played mother and son.

Ryota (Abe) won a prestigious award for his first novel, but his muse seems to have deserted him. He works for a private detective agency but to save face tells others it’s a temporary stint to research for his next novel (which hasn’t materialized for 15 years). His wife, Kyoko (Yoko Maki), has left him, presumably due to his gambling addition, and she threatens not to let him see their young son Shingo (Taiyo Yoshizawa, soulful) unless he pays child support.

Seeing Ryota blackmail surveillance targets for kickbacks, spy on his wife’s dates or swipe anything of value from his mother’s frugal home, it’s clear he’s nobody’s role model. Yet Kore-eda recounts these scenes with good humor, making it hard to write him off as a scumbag. His sister and his boss indulge him, either lending him money they know he’ll never pay back or overlooking his infractions. It’s characteristic of Kore-eda’s moderation that he doesn’t pile on the mawkish misery, reminding viewers that the world is not a totally cruel and heartless place.

The only person Ryota doesn’t mess with is Shingo, whom he desperately adores. Looking far wiser than his years, with doe-eyes and delicate cheekbones, the boy is not demonstrative with his affection, but he’s accepted his dad for the loser he is and still wants to be around him. On their big day out, they end up partaking in the same childhood pastimes Ryota shared with his late father. Although it’s poignant to see the cycle being continued, the experience also rekindles Ryota’s fond memories of his old man, with whom he had a rocky relationship.

A turning point occurs when a typhoon forces Kyoko, Shingo, and Ryota to sleep over at his mother, Yoshiko’s, home. Such is the finesse of Kore-eda’s script that it builds to neither the vehement confrontation nor the comforting reconciliation that melodrama decrees. Instead, it imparts those rare, liberating moments when characters revert to their most honest selves and pluck up the courage to express their deepest, albeit unattainable wishes.

In a heartbreaking scene, Yoshiko and Kyoko try to reach an understanding even as their intentions run counter to each other. The two seem like mirror images: They’ve put up with a lot in marriage and stoically brought up the children. Their ability to make the best of things and move on is a model of graciousness compared with their men’s headstrong attachment to the past and inflated hopes for the future.

Kore-eda sets his story in Kiyose, a city on the outskirts of the Tokyo Metropolis, and shoots in the “danchi” (low-rent housing compound) where he grew up. In doing so, the director claims artistic affinity with neorealist master Mikio Naruse. However, while Naruse’s protagonists tend to be so blinded by egoistical passion that they willfully destroy themselves and others, Kore-eda takes a more generous view of humanity in “After the Storm.” Rather than trying to undo the past, the characters come to accept life’s imperfection, and are more or less at peace with their failures. The Japanese title, taken from a song by Taiwanese diva Teresa Teng, means “even deeper than the sea.” The original lyrics are a romantic statement, but here they invoke family ties that transcend love and death.

The towering 6-2 Abe consciously affects a diffident stoop that matches his hang-dog expression. By contrast, Maki carries herself with glacial poise, a sign that Kyoko is holding back her feelings from Ryota in order to make the most pragmatic decisions. Yet the two exude the instinctive familiarity of people who once loved each other passionately. Kiki goes through her trademark dotty old woman shtick but emerges as a pillar of strength by the finale. Craft contributions are unobtrusively polished.

Cannes Film Review: 'After the Storm'

Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard), May. 18, 2016. Running time: 117 MIN. (Original title: "Umi yori mada fukaku")

Production: (Japan) A Gaga release of a Fuji Television Network, Bandai Visual, Aoi Pro, Gaga presentation of an Aoi Pro production. (International sales: Wild Bunch, Paris; Asian sales, Gaga, Tokyo.) Produced by Takashi Ishihara, Kazumi Kawashiro, Tsugihiko Fujiwara, Tom Yoda. Executive producers, Yasushi Kuwata, Kenji Hamada, Yasuhito Nakae, Tsuyoshi Matsushita.

Crew: Directed, written, edited by Hirokazu Kore-eda. Camera (color, HD), Yutaka Yamazaki; music, Hanaregumi; music supervisor, Taro Takahashi; production designer, Keiko Mitsumatsu; set decorator, Akiko Matsuba; costume designer, Kazuko Kurosawa; sound (5.1), Akihiko Okase; associate producer, Megumi Ozawa; assistant directors, Jun Kaneshige, Kaoru Endo; casting, Toshie Tabata.

With: Hiroshi Abe, Yoko Maki, Kirin Kiki, Taiyo Yoshizawa, Soryo Ikematsu, Satomi Kobayashi, Lily Franky,  Isao Hashitsume, Kanji Furutachi. (Japanese dialogue)

More Film

  • The Lion King

    ‘The Lion King’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Walt Disney Pictures claims the top spot in spending with “The Lion King.” Ads placed for the remake had an estimated media value of $5.64 million through Sunday for 1,290 national ad airings on [...]

  • Beyonce poses for photographers upon arrival

    Beyoncé Releases Music Video for 'Spirit,' Her 'Lion King' Soundtrack Contribution

    Beyoncé fans are stampeding across the web veldt to get a look at her just-released music video for “Spirit,” the original song she co-wrote and sang for the “Lion King” soundtrack. The track is also included on the companion album she executive-produced and will release Friday, “The Gift.” Clips from the computer-animated film are interspersed [...]

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    Jennifer Lopez Takes Down Wall Street Crooks in New Trailer for 'Hustlers'

    According to Jennifer Lopez, basic pole dancing movements all revolve around a few foot positions. But as she tells her stripper student Constance Wu, it’s not just about the dancing. In the new trailer for “Hustlers,” Lopez and Wu swindle a number of high profile Wall Street clients in an effort to bring their white [...]

  • Writers vs Agents Packaging War WGA

    Writers Guild Leaders Warn Members About Contact With Fired Agents

    Leaders of the Writers Guild of America are warning members about being contacted by their former agents — asserting that such efforts are an attempt to undermine the WGA and its members. The missive, sent Tuesday from the WGA negotiating committee, came with the guild in a bitter three-month standoff with talent agents that appears [...]

  • Apollo 11

    Film News Roundup: 'Apollo 11' Re-Release Set for Moon Landing Anniversary

    In today’s film news roundup, Neon is re-releasing “Apollo 11”; “Sesame Street” gets moved; “Supersize Me 2” is set for Sept. 13; Will Ropp gets a “Silk Road” deal; and Apple makes a movie deal. RE-LAUNCH Neon will re-release Todd Douglas Miller’s documentary “Apollo 11” in theaters on July 20, the 50th anniversary of the [...]

  • Michael B. JordanAFI Awards Luncheon, Los

    Michael B. Jordan's 'Just Mercy' Moves to Awards Season Slot

    Michael B. Jordan’s upcoming legal drama “Just Mercy” has been shifted forward three weeks from Jan. 17 to Dec. 25 for an Oscar-qualifying theatrical release. “Just Mercy” is based on the case of Walter McMillan, an African-American death-row prisoner who was exonerated in 1993 after being convicted five years earlier for a 1986 murder in [...]

  • Harry Styles to Play Prince Eric

    Harry Styles in Talks to Play Prince Eric in Disney's 'Little Mermaid'

    Harry Styles is going under the sea. The former One Direction frontman is in early negotiations to play Prince Eric in Disney’s live-action adaptation of “The Little Mermaid.” Halle Bailey will portray the Ariel, a mermaid princess who dreams of being a human, while Melissa McCarthy is playing her evil aunt Ursula. “The Little Mermaid” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content