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The pen proves as mighty as the sword in new Kore-eda film. A talented but struggling writer yearns to reconnect with his son in the charming 'After the Storm.'  Read More

By Reno March 4, 2017

**A mother's one final push to save her son's marriage.**

Remarkable consistency in delivering great dramas. If you are a drama film fan without the language barrier, then you must have seen at least a couple of films of Hirokazu Koreeda. Less than a year ago I saw his new arrival 'Our Little Sister'. Despite not overwhelmingly impressed with that, I won't say that I did not enjoy it. I always fascinated with the realistic portrayal, but the points should be executed so well than leaving empty scenes and dialogues, and calling it an art film. This one was much better. The first impression was okay, but after giving some time between my watch and writing this review, I kind of started to like it more.

First of all, this story was not new for me. I have already seen a few similar themed films from other parts of the world, particularly in Hollywood. But none of them were as serious as this one while narrating its tale. The storyline was simple, entirely focused on a family, fighting on stumbling marriage. It was a long introduction, particularly aimed at a father, like how he messed up in his life with gambling. But opening few minutes made him look like a man of example. Only in the following event you would know how deep his troubles are.

Other than his family, his work field was introduced to us. Being a writer, but for a few quick bucks working as a private eye on his part time, he misuses the opportunity with his loyal friend. Once the film reaches the half way mark, the focus shifts back to the family where the remaining story takes place. It was a stormy day and they all gather in his mother's apartment. This is where everything will be cleared out, whether the marriage will be saved or not. But the mother's one final push as it seems planned perfectly, would it deliver a result is what you should watch it to learn.

> ❝I wonder why it is that men can't love the present. Either they just keep chasing whatever it is they've lost, or they keep dreaming beyond their reach.❞

You can't doubt Hiroshi Abe's presence. He was perfect along with Kirin Kiki, whose a few films I've seen before, but only started to notice recently with her amazing performance from 'Sweet Bean'. The casting looked great, and the locations. I always like films about elderly people, especially to highlight their struggle. And most of the Japanese films I have seen on that concept were just like the way I wanted. Maybe because there are lots of aging people in Japan than anywhere else. Just kidding.

Obviously dialogues are very important for a film and there were many good lines spoken. At one point in the final stage, it flips towards sentiments. Very touching conversation, particularly coming from an old and experienced woman, which is definitely worth taking heed. This is a family film. Despite about a marriage crisis, there is no speculation, like twist and turns. Interesting enough with its plain narration. True to its title and when the title part comes into play, that's where it gets its peak. With its nearly two hours runtime, the pace was acceptable, but patience needed for those got trouble with long films.

This is the film about our life, that we can try for what we want to be, but achieving it not easy, not everybody would succeed that. Accepting the fact, as life my go on was the message. Incredible writing and direction. Feels like straight out of a book, it's an original screenplay though. Surely you don't want to miss this film, from this director. Because if you do, it is equal to failing to watch the latest Woody Allen film. Only he's a Japanese version. My final words are the director already made his masterpiece(s), but still it is near to one compared to the international cinemas. So I'm not saying it is a must, but surely worth a try.

_7½/10_

By Movie Times Staff April 1, 2017

There are still Westerners who have never seen a Japanese movie that didn't have swordsmen in it. Director Hirokazu Kore-eda's new dramedy After the Storm shows what they're missing. It's his funniest and funkiest film yet.

That said, the cheaper, smudged side of Japan shows up in all his movies--like in the not-so-sweet hereafter of After Life, the grubby kids left to fend for themselves in Nobody Knows, or the beach-city fix-it shop with its tattooed proprietor in Like Father, Like Son. Even Kore-eda's lesser movies show a Japan that doesn't appear much in the movies, and After the Storm is one of his best.

It's late summer. The 23rd typhoon of the season is lurking offshore, raising the temperature to sweltering. Ryota (Hiroshi Abe) has come out by train to an old-folks apartment complex. He slurps down some noodles at the train station and goes to visit his recently widowed mom.

This good-looking Ryota could be defined in one of two ways: he's either a writer with a gambling problem or a gambler with a writing problem. He published a novel to some acclaim but few readers. Since then, the divorced man has been working as a private detective, on the grounds of researching his next book. This excuse is face-saving, not that Ryota has much face to save: he lives in a dump, he haunts pawnshops, he stalks his ex-wife, and he inaugurates sleazy double-crossing scams with the clients who hire him for divorce work, which involves staking out hot-sheet "love hotels." Abe's smoothness means the viewer sort of forgives him his trespasses: he's a rascal without any violence in him, a desperate victim of circumstances, not an out-and-out bastard. And in scenes with his mother-memorably played by Kiki Kirinyou can see where he got his hustle and charm.

Kirin, who was in Kore-eda's Still Walking, is the movie's real reason for being. Being slightly wall-eyed makes Kirin a master of the sidelong look; she misses nothing. Her Yoshiko is a strangely joyous portrait of an old woman. Out for a walk, she talks about being followed by a butterfly, and wondering if it was perhaps her reincarnated ex-husband. If so, she said, it could go away now, she was fine on her own. The dead father's foibles aren't spelled out; we only see a picture of him, stodgy in a suit, on the small bookshelf-sized altar dedicated to him. What he thought of his son we can guess. It's clear that Ryota's prize-winning novel had a bit of familial dirty laundry in it.

Yoshiko is hardly immobilized by grief, though she's keen on a little manipulation of her family. "Don't leave grandma alone," she whines theatrically, getting Ryoka, his ex-wife and their kid, Shingo (Taiyo Yoshizawa), to linger during the night of the rainstorm. She may be a denizen of a dingy low-income apartment, a purchaser of expired groceries, and a wearer of ratty, patched sweaters, but she's shrewd. When Ryota says "the great talents bloom later," Yoshiko replies, "You took too long to bloom." She gets paid back in kind by manipulation: Ryota says, "I'm sorry I'm such a useless son," and then we see him raising his eyes for a quick glance, to see how that apologetic routine went over with his mom. She doesn't really buy it.

Kore-eda pushes for a bit of a happy ending when all we really needed was some hope. Mostly, the humor reminds one of the Thanksgiving classic Home for the Holidays. Even if the comedy here is drier and less confrontational, this unpretentious family knows how to get in one another's grills. The surroundings are homely, the hustles are funny, and the sage and salty old lady is an elder to be cherished.