AAAFF 2016: “After the Storm” review

“After the Storm” will make you fall in love with cinema all over again.

Photo credit: AOI Pro. Inc.

Photo credit: AOI Pro. Inc.

Review by Dana Summers and Shadan Larki

Hirokazu Koreeda is an icon of Japanese cinema and after watching his latest film “After the Storm,” it’s clear that he is worthy of such stature. The film, which Koreeda also wrote and edited, centers on Ryota (Hiroshi Abe), a novelist-turned detective with a gambling problem and unpaid child support. Played brilliantly by Hiroshi Abe, the film follows Ryota in the days before a typhoon as he struggles to come to terms with the circumstances of his life and his complex bonds with his elderly mother, sister, ex-wife, and son.

What differentiated this film from the typical family drama was its natural performances. While the characters were dealing with uncomfortable topics like divorce, addiction, and even death, like we humans do, they covered the pain with humor.

Photo credit: AOI Pro. Inc.

Photo credit: AOI Pro. Inc.

The plot and dialogue flowed with such ease that even humorous scenes like one showing Ryota’s mother swooning over her neighbor are a treat, or fussing over a stain on her son’s shirt. While these scenes don’t move the plot forward, it does provide incredible depth to the characters and we couldn’t imagine the film without them. Kirin Kiki as Ryota’s mother was the standout character of the film due to the fact that she was sweet, humorous, and felt so genuine that she reminded us of our own grandmothers. She was the glue that not only keep the rest of the family together, but she also grounds the film, keeps it light, and serves as a voice of reason. She was also the character that we felt most connected to as viewers. The movie takes place Japan, but you don’t have to be Japanese to appreciate the film’s universal themes and see a bit of yourself in these flawed, beautifully-crafted characters.

Photo credit: AOI Pro. Inc.

Photo credit: AOI Pro. Inc.

This film’s strongest achievement is the incredible depth it gives its characters. While Ryota could easily be played as just some scumbag because he’s a gambling addicted ex-husband who steals from his own mother and spies on people for a living, he is so much deeper than that. His drive to be a better father regardless of whether he is making the smartest choices makes the audience root for him. His desire to not be exactly like the father he resents despite the fact that he his following in his footsteps exactly makes the audience pity him. It’s soon easy to see why he’s so addicted to gambling because those few moments allow him to dream of achieving a better life and finally being the man he wants to be. It’s those dreams that he hopes to pass to his son Shingo (Taiyô Yoshizawa).

Photo credit: AOI Pro. Inc.

Photo credit: AOI Pro. Inc.

This film deservingly served as the grand finale to the Austin Asian American Film Festival and drew the largest crowd of the whole festival. True to life, it’s the smaller more intimate scenes in “After the Storm” that will stay with you long after the movie ends, and have you grabbing for your tissues. If you happen across this movie, watch it. It will make you appreciate life, appreciate the power of cinema, and fall in love with movies all over again.

Check out the trailer!

About Dana

Full-time bodacious strategist with an insatiable need to know everything about everything. Part-time scrappy freelance journalist and photographer. Follow me on Twitter @isitdanaordonna and check out😉

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