The 20th Japanese Film Festival – After the Storm Review

Yes, it’s been a very long time since my last post and I thought I would come back with the wonder news, at least for me, that the Japanese Film Festival has returned, for its 20th year as well!! This year’s festival has been complicated by the need for babysitting for two kids rather than one and well, let’s just say it requires some juggling and some finances. But enough of that. Down to business.

The opening movie of the festival is Hirokazu Kore-eda’s new film, After the Storm. I am usually a fan of Kore-eda’s work, having loved them all. However, this film was tough going for me. The story centres on Ryota (Hiroshi Abe) who works as an ethically challenged private detective who gambles away his meagre salary and then struggles to pay child support for his son each month.

This downtrodden existence is in contrast to an earlier highlight in his life when he won a prestigious writing prize but it’s hard to imagine from what we see which is a tribute to the acting skills of Abe who even affects a slump in his tall frame which tells us trying how tired the man is with his life. He steals from his mother, played by the national treasure Kirin Kiki, desperate to come up with the required child support that he is meant to deliver to his beautiful but fed up ex-wife Kyoko (Yoko Maki).

This movie is a slow burn and there are parts where the relationships could have been developed more deeply but perhaps deliberately, that was avoided to that the audience could be delivered to the mother’s house just prior to the arrival of the storm of the title. I found myself really hoping that the protagonist could sort himself out and do what needed to be done to repair the relationships around him and we get a glimpse of this with Ryota’s touching if clumsy interactions with his son who knows his father better than the father knows himself. There is also a wonderful moment of shared clarity between the ex-wife and her mother in law that left me deeply affected but sadly, a happy ending is not to be.

I think it’s this point that caused me such difficulty with this movie and I am aware enough to separate that from the quality of the movie itself. As such, I give it 4 stars out of 5.

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