After the Storm

After the Storm ★★★★½

After a string of mid-tier works, Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda finally marks his best work since Still Walking. In this exquisitely-told, mellow After the Storm, a disillusioned father gets pulled back to the ground after realizing the process of “letting go” after spending time with his family. Kore-eda hones a beautiful, thought-provoking portraiture of a working-class family left in a deep, existential clout—further establishing Kore-eda as one of world cinema’s master dramatists.

In After the Storm, every character has their dreams and hopes that they know they will not accomplish, yet they don’t dwell in sorrow or hopelessness. Except for Ryota, an unsuccessful writer/part-time detective who dwells in the casinos/gambling for an escape after being divorced with his wife. But with all life’s mysteries, something happens after the storm. A profound understanding came into his head. He lets go of his pride, ego, and oneself. He then realized that there is much more to do than to dwell on things that’s already been in the past.

Kore-eda’s natural strength as a dramatist is his careful, sensitive attention to his characters. In his films, he gives each of them focus and agency to act and decide for their lives, whether it’s good or bad. Ryota is such a wonderfully-realized character because he does not please the viewer. He lets his flaws and shortcomings penetrable to the light. Another great strength of Kore-eda’s films is his thoughtful, wise elderly figures, which transcends their image as full-bodied characters not just life mentors. There’s a beautiful exchange between Ryota and his old mother about life and it actually made me warm inside.

The acting is splendid. Hiroshi Abe (Ryota) is wonderful along with child actor Taiyo Yoshizawa (Shingo). But it’s veteran actress Kirin Kiki who devastated me in every scene of hers. An embodiment of heartbreak and grace, she musters every woman whose hopes came away, yet is still welcoming of life’s unpredictable ways. In the end, I saw myself and my family within After the Storm. It is a carefully-drawn, and measured scope of the lives and trials of the working-class. Indeed, this is one of Kore-eda’s best.

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