after the storm

REVIEW BY ROBYN KILROY

Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda returns after his 2015 hit Our Little Sister with another family drama After the Storm. Koreeda presents to us a story of novelist turned detective Hiroshi Abe (Shinoda Ryota) trying to become a better father for his son (Taiyô Yoshizawa) after divorcing his mother (Yōko Maki). Koreeda achieves to create a moving and compelling film by showing the conflict between family members through dialogue rather than action among other, classically contemplative, Japanese narrative techniques.

Something to warn of before watching this film is its rather slow-paced narrative. This is a style reminiscent of traditional Japanese cinema as is best exemplified by the work of Ozu. Throughout Koreeda’s film there are moments in which little to no action takes place. Certain scenes focus on totally ordinary, even tedious, everyday routines, for example, when we see Hiroshi’s mother (Kirin Kiki) cooking and cleaning in her small council flat. Mainstream audiences, who are conditioned to expect continuous action in narrative cinema may find concentration difficult to maintain. The slow-paced narrative, however, adds a sense of realism to the story. A realism that can only be found in the moments of everyday life where nothing is happening. By showing us this, Koreeda creates a truly tranquil narrative.

Koreeda explores the family dynamics between his array of varied yet recognisable characters. This style is again evocative of the work of Ozu, a master of the shomin-geki genre or “common people” drama. Koreeda explores contemporary issues in the everyday lives of the family, in particular the issue of divorce. Though Hiroshi, a gambling-addict who uses his job as a private investigator to spy on his ex-wife, may not be the most likable of characters, the audience cannot help but to root for him in his attempts to be a better father. This is most touching in the moments where Hiroshi shares with his son memories of his own father. The patient and pensive structure of this film allows us to see the different conflicts and relationships between family members, leaving the audience feeling like we’ve known them our whole lives. 

If you are new to the world of Japanese cinema, in particular the more contemporary dramatic output, this film is a great one to begin with. Besides its pacing being slow, the well-developed and interesting characters draw you into the story, especially Hiroshi’s plight and his mother’s witty comments about life.