“Why envy the future?” a character muses in After the Storm, the latest character drama from Hirokazu Kore-eda. The question is the Rosetta Stone for deciphering this quiet, yet emotionally-complex film.
Shinoda is a private investigator. Not the Raymond Chandler tough guy who carries a gun and is fast with a quip. Shinoda follows wayward spouses on their affairs and cheats clients by selling his information to the highest bidder. His moral compass is broken, and he’s adrift in an ocean of broken relationships, gambling, unpaid child support and professional failure. Earlier in his life, he wrote a successful novel, but his literary career has dried up to the point that his agent tries to find him a job writing for a Japanese comic book.
Much like the typhoons referred to off-camera, Shinoda’s life is an endless cycle of storms and their aftermaths. As he borrows money from his sister and half-heartedly attempts to steal items from his mother by calling them his “inheritance”, Shinoda realizes that he is just like his father, a man he considered to be a failure. Even his own mother refers to Shinoda as his “father’s ghost”.
After the Storm examines just how fragile our daily relationships can be. As Shinoda conducts background checks for his detective agency, we see sons trying to find fathers and wives following husbands. Everyone is seeking a happiness that seems to be eluding them. Fulfillment is just around the corner if only you leave your spouse or shirk your responsibilities as a parent or quit your deadend job to pursue something new.
“Why envy the future?”, indeed. As with so many of us, Kore-eda’s characters are incapable of living in the present. They are paralyzed by the defeats suffered in their pasts or are intimidated by the unknown of their futures. They lose themselves in idle hobbies (listening to classical music, gambling), avoiding the kinds of commitments that create lasting, valuable relationships. It’s a low risk-low reward world that can quickly become devoid of any meaningful connections.
The film is keenly observed. As with the best character dramas, the majority of the backstory goes unstated, yet the audience can intuit the history shared by these characters. Kore-eda has a fine ear for dialogue and avoids the kind of spoken exposition that can destroy a film such as this.
After the Storm has many layers, deceptively simple in its presentation, but heavy with thematic content. It’s the kind of film that rewards a second viewing. And in this world filled with endless amounts of new content to be consumed, that’s a rare compliment.
After the Storm opens at Landmark Theatre locations across the country on Friday, April 7, 2017.
The Movie Isle
Scott Phillips holds a degree in print journalism from the University of Georgia and is currently a member of the Georgia Film Critics Association (GAFCA). In addition to his role as a correspondent for Timed Edition, Scott serves as the Executive Editor and Senior Writer for themovieisle.com. From 2013 through 2017, he reviewed films for filmdispenser.com. Along with his duties as a critic, Scott serves as the Content Programmer for the Way Down Film Festival held in Columbus, Georgia every fall.