Af­ter the Storm

AF­TER THE STORM, drama, not rated, in Ja­panese with sub­ti­tles, The Screen, 3 chiles

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - (Still Walk­ing)

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

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