VOD film review: After the Storm
James R | On 19, Feb 2018
Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
Cast: Hiroshi Abe, Yoko Maki, Kirin Kiki, Taiyo Yoshizawa
Watch After the Storm online in the UK: Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play / Sky Store
After the Storm is a film that takes places before a tempest. It looms on the horizon, lingers in the background of the weather forecast, and, as movies have taught us, promises to bring about all manner of erupting drama. But this is no 2012: this is a Hirokazu Koreeda film, and the director’s delicate eye for human drama is as gentle and flowing as ever.
After the Storm follows Ryota Shinoda (Hiroshi Abe), a writer who made waves with a successful debut novel. But 15 years on, he’s still not published a second book, and squanders what little money he has on gambling. To fund that habit, he makes his living as a private detective, but with 0.001% of the cool of Humphrey Bogart’s Sam Spade – Ryota doesn’t hesitate to blackmail the subjects he catches in the act of doing something unsavoury, and is even quicker to then take them on as clients to spy on the people who originally hired him to go after them. In other words, he’s exactly what you’d expect a hard-boiled gumshoe to be like if Koreeda made a noir flick – a faintly tragic, entirely believable figure, right down to the way he uses his profession to stalk his ex-wife, Kyoko (Yoko Maki).
The title, then, could be taken to reflect the damp squib of his existence. Hiroshi Abe plays his part with a slight note of comedy as well as sadness, tip-toeing through a pitter-patter of regret; it’s not long until his failure to provide any financial support to his son, Shingo (Taiyo Yoshizawa), threatens his ability to see him. That acts as something of a wake-up call for the immature fool, not least because his stalking unearths the fact that Kyoko is seeing a new fella, who has bought Shingo a new baseball glove.
All three of them are ultimately forced to stay in the same house by the eventual storm – the house that belongs to his recently bereaved mother (the scene-stealing Kirin Kiki). But what emerges, rather than lightning strikes of shouting matches, is a bittersweet and quietly moving string of conversations about death, love and family and everything in between (both said and unsaid) that are observed with intimate naturalism. After the Storm ultimately emerges as less about what thunderous events have gone before, and more about the potential for something hopeful that might come next. An understated gem.