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November 07, 2016

Denver Film Festival: After the Storm

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Umi yori mo mada fukaku
Hirokazu Koreeda - 2016
Film Movement

The Japanese title translates as "Even deeper than the sea", which may be more abstract, but also more accurate regarding Koreeda's new film. While there is a storm, a typhoon which awkwardly brings a former novelist, his son, his ex-wife and his mother together, what takes place after is a temporary resolution that closes the film.

With Hiroshi Abe in the lead role, Koreeda looks at Ryota, a once promising writer who won a literary prize fifteen years ago, now casually working as a detective, investigating straying spouses. As a divorced father, Ryota barely make enough money for child support, made worse by the losses incurred from his gambling habit. Like Koreeda's other films, it's a look at how families either stay together or fall apart. Koreeda also looks at how one reconciles the life one has with the promises and expectations of the past. The tone here is lighter than Like Father, Like Son, with several moments of humorous banter.

As Ryota's mother, Kirin Kiki brings deadpan delivery and several moments of laughter. I highly recommend seeing Kiki's starring appearance in Naomi Kawase's Sweet Bean, as an older woman whose special pancakes become unexpectedly popular. For Koreeda, Kiki cracks wise comparing herself to a scratched floor, and explaining that she prefers being a lone widow because at her age, more friends mean more funerals.

What struck me is reading an interview with Koreeda conducted in conjunction with his previous film, Our Little Sister. Autobiographical elements are incorporated into After the Storm, such as when a friend of Ryota's father tells of how the father, who reportedly never read a book, gave out free copies of Ryota's novel to several neighborhood friends, inspired by Koreeda's mother who gave out videocassettes of her son's films. Perhaps more autobiographical is a scene when Ryota's sister berates him fifteen years after publication, for using the family as a basis for his novel. Very much closer to home is that part of After the Storm was filmed in the low rent neighborhood of Kiyose, on the outskirts of Tokyo, where Koreeda grew up.

Posted by peter at November 7, 2016 07:44 AM