After the Storm
AFTER THE STORM, drama, not rated, in Japanese with subtitles, The Screen, 3 chiles
Ryota (Hiroshi Abe) doesn’t inherit much when his father dies, but he’s already gotten a raft of bad habits from the old man. Chief among them is a gambling problem. When he rifles through his father’s effects while his mother is out, hoping to find something of value, all he comes up with is a pile of pawn slips and old lottery tickets.
Ryota is divorced, and only rarely sees his son Shingo (Taiyo Yoshizawa). He’d like to get more involved in the boy’s life, but his tendency to gamble away his child support money at the bicycle track or the Pachinko parlor keeps him on dicey footing with his ex-wife Kyoko (Yoko Maki), and was a big factor in their breakup.
He was once a promising writer, but it’s been 15 years since his prizewinning debut novel. He’s now working as a private eye for a detective agency, ostensibly gathering material for a new book. He spends most of his time on divorce cases, taking sleazy compromising pictures for suspicious wives and husbands and indulging in a little mild blackmail. He employs some of his professional skills to keep tabs on Kyoko, who is seeing a well-off jerk and may be planning to marry the guy.
As the picture opens, we’re in the small apartment of his mother, Yoshiko (Kirin Kiki), a feisty, funny old gal (“New friends at my age,” she tells her daughter, “only mean more funerals”) who is remarkably unsentimental over the recent passing of her husband of 50 years. The TV announces that a storm is coming, the 24th typhoon of the year. The typhoon hits, and the principals — Ryota, his ex-wife, and their son — have ended up for dinner at his mother’s place, and are forced to spend the night there together. It provides a stage for trying to work out some of the problems between the lanky, disheveled, handsome Ryota and the beautiful, controlled Kyoko, who obviously once loved each other. Maybe they still do, but the chasm inflicted by his bad habits is probably unbreachable.
Will they be handed down to the next generation? Shingo seems cut from a different bolt of cloth. He’s shy and diffident, and although he plays baseball, his ambition, he tells his father, is to be a civil servant, not a ballplayer. And as a ballplayer, his goal is walks, not home runs. But Ryota has passed along to his son a love of the lottery, which he insists to Kyoko is not gambling, but “a dream.” In the typhoon scene, when Shingo’s lottery tickets blow away, she pitches in to find them.
Director Hirokazu Kore-eda has created a mood of sweet melancholy over this family drama, but also a bright and irresistible humor. His dialogue (he wrote, directed, and edited the film) is clever and funny, and the characters are individual and sharply drawn. “You don’t always become what you wanted to be,” Ryota tells his son. But after the storm, there’s hope. — Jonathan Richards
Three’s company: Taiyo Yoshizawa, Hiroshi Abe, and Yoko Maki