After the Storm has a tonal problem sometimes. It’s a family drama as seen through the eyes of the spun off, burnout son who watches fitfully from the outskirts of the relationship, bemused by the fact that his ex-wife is now a more integral part of the clan than him. He wrote an award winning book in his youth, everyone seems very excited to remind him of the fact. The fact that he’s been struggling to put pen to paper for over eight years now means their support only registers as pain. He’s taken up a job as a private investigator to make ends meet, but his gambling compulsion prevents him from even managing that.
Elsewhere in his life: his ex is getting together with a new dude, his sister’s dragging him constantly for being such a monumental screw up, his son’s only allowed to visit one afternoon a month and his mother’s fretting she’ll die in the small apartment she’s been stuck in since her now grown children were actual children. It’s trying to scrape all the disappointment and ennui out of life in decline and mine the black comedy that can be had as us failures fight against it. While it can be funny and it can be sad, the real problem is it don’t manage too often to do both together.
Honestly, the main plot don’t do so well. Ryota Shinoda (Hiroshi Abe) is a loveably appalling creature, he skulks around the back streets of the city and makes a habit of blackmailing those he’s being legitimately paid to investigate just in case he can wring an extra few thousand yen out of the hours he spends at work. At home there’s a desk overflowing with notes and ideas but in his free time the dude prefers to be betting at the track or playing his luck at pachinko, drinking too. There’s that prideful arse charm that he carries about him like a shield which is occasionally punctured by his youthful co-worker and friend (Sōsuke Ikematsu).
It’s a bad dad tale. I guess the real tragedy is that he’s not even close to being the worst dad we’ve seen on the screen and even then he don’t get off too easy. At the same time, speaking as someone with they own daddy issues, he gets more than he deserves. As Ryota fails to be a better father to his child writer, director, editor Hirokazu Kore-eda takes a mature approach to his material, like John Darninelle, he realises too that his film wants for those Pale Green Things to cleanse these characters. Only, we can’t see them from the father’s point of view, maybe it’s enough that he’s trying, but we ain’t never let into the child’s mind.
At least it never judges his ex, or her new beaux, or any of the people who get sacked off at Ryota, the film respects their reasons. It’s only responsible. None of them the true reason to go see the flick though, seriously catch whatever other deadbeat dad you want if that the case. Watch this one for Kirin Kiki.
Seriously, her performance as Yoshiko, the mother of the tribe, is something else. It’s one of the best performances I’ve seen all year. When I said earlier that it had those tonal problems, yeah that’s for just about every scene she’s not in. I wish this whole joint were about her character in that shitty flat of hers. Like, the character acknowledges she’s on her way out, that she starting to lose track of things, and then as a performer Kiki takes all that tragedy and turns it right around into the films biggest laughs. Even when she just doing old lady stuff she’s doing it so well observed. We spend the first fifteen minutes of the film following her character, then when it turns out her son’s the main dude it’s just so disappointing.
Ah well, she gotta be on my list of best supporting actresses of the year, because hot damn she makes this movie worth watching on her own. She seems like a good person, which ain’t to say much, but genuinely pure people seem hard to come by in Kore-eda’s films. You always get the sense that there’s a good person down there, under the surface that the weight of life is holding down. I feel for them, I’m trying my best too. Maybe I should be easier on myself when I screw up, maybe then I wouldn’t hold so much spite for their redemption.
After the Storm is currently screening in UK cinemas