More and more Japanese films have been making their way to UK cinema screens in the last few years. Events such as the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme and screenings of big-name anime films such as Your Name mean more people can discover Japanese cinema.
The latest addition to the line-up of ‘Japanese films you should totally check out at the cinema’ is the critically-acclaimed After the Storm by Hirozuka Kore-eda, known as the master of Japanese realism. Kore-eda is well known in Japan for his films that explore the hard truth of real life.
After the Storm isn’t an epic fantasy or explosive adventure but an honest portrayal of one man and his family. It’s quite different from some of the other Japanese films that have screened in the UK so far, so it’s refreshing to see something different.
Divorced Ryota is a prize-winning author who is yet to write anything else or do anything else with his life. He spends his days dwelling on the past, gambling and working as a private detective. He barely makes enough to pay child support, much to the disapproval of his ex-wife who’s already found herself a new man and son who is making his way in life without his father. Following the death of his own father, Ryota starts sniffing around his elderly mother’s flat in the hopes of finding something to pawn or money to ‘borrow’. When a storm hits, it offers Ryota a chance to bond again with his family.
The cast is small but the characters are delightful. Despite being a complete waste of space, I found myself liking Ryota, even though I wasn’t necessarily rooting for him. His wife, Kyoko, has moved on with her own life and understandably doesn’t want to deal with her ex unless he can put his money where his mouth is (which he often can’t). Their son, Shingo, is simply adorable but my favourite character is definitely Ryota’s mum. An elderly lady living alone in her tiny apartment following her husband’s death, she fusses about and thrives when she has company, something a lot of us will recognise in our own grandparents.
After the Storm isn’t the most action-packed film you’ll see this year. It’s part character study and part family drama. The first hour or so of the film sets up the characters and the ‘plot’ doesn’t really get moving until the storm hit halfway through. The storm itself wasn’t as dramatic as I expected – the focus is much more on the opportunities rather than the destruction that the storm brings. But, in true Kore-eda realist style, After the Storm makes up for this lack of ‘action’ with an occasionally funny and bittersweet portrayal of one family and forgiveness. It’s also a reminder that we don’t always make the right choice and that things aren’t always so black and white.
After the Storm is in cinemas from 2nd June. At the time of me writing this blog, I do not have news of where it will be screened. When I do I’ll post more details but this is one to check out if you want to broaden your repertoire of Japanese cinema!