Critics' Pick

After the Storm (Umi yori mo Mada Fukaku) (NR)

Drama 117 min. March 17, 2017
By Bilge Ebiri
Director Hirokazu Kore-eda's stories, such as they are, unfold in unlikely ways. He doesn't play so much with structure but with focus: He'll allow a scene to go on and on before slipping in a crucial bit of narrative information that sends the story off in a new direction. That could result in chaos, but Kore-eda's absorption in these lives, his ability to imbue the slightest exchange or glance with warmth and humor, transfixes us.

After the Storm might be his most devastating work yet. The film follows divorced dad Ryota (played by a movingly mopey Hiroshi Abe), a failed novelist and gambling addict looking to put his life back together. When we first meet him, he's raiding his mom's apartment and searching the possessions of his recently deceased father for anything he might be able to sell. Unfortunately, dad too was a gambling addict and had already pawned just about everything.

Ryota wants to clean his life up, but he is somehow both too proud and too defeatist to do so. That might seem like a contradiction, but Kore-eda, who draws from life and not from simplistic loglines, understands that those impulses often go hand-in-hand. Ryota spends part of his time on buses and trains with a notepad, presumably gathering ideas for a new book, and the rest working for a private investigation firm to make ends meet. Respect for human fallibility shines throughout After the Storm, as Kore-eda patiently charts the process by which his protagonist comes to understand that he might never become the man he wants to be -- and starts to reconcile aspiration and acceptance.
Hirokazu Koreeda Hiroshi Abe, Yoko Maki, Satomi Kobayashi, Taiya Yoshizawa, Kirin Kiki Hirokazu Koreeda Film Movement

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