There’s a gratifying appeal to the work of Japanese auteur Hirokazu Koreeda, whose distinctive sensibilities as a filmmaker ensure every passing endeavour is one to cherish, as he so often blends kitchen sink realism with a subtle injection of enchantment – and his latest, After the Storm, is no different.
Following the death of his father, Ryota (Hiroshi Abe) – a private detective who once garnered success as an author, has often neglected his own offspring and so makes an attempt to reconnect, starting with his ex-wife Kyoko (Yoko Maki), who is reluctant to give him a second chance. But Ryota is determined to prove his worth, and not only as a father but as a son too, as he heads back home to spend some time with his ageing mother (Kirin Kiki). All he needs is the opportunity to spend some time with them – and so he thanks his lucky stars when a storm breaks out, keeping them all in the same apartment for a night.
Tonally there’s so much to appreciate about this production, offering a heightened take on reality without compromising once on the authenticity, as the viewer remains emotionally invested from the offset. The enchantment is helped along by the score, with acoustic tracks embellished by whistling make up much of the soundtrack. Yet at the core of this tale is an immensely flawed protagonist who enriches the narrative with a certain volatility, a relatively tragic character creation, and yet one it’s so difficult not to root for, thanks mostly to his humanity, with his imperfections endearing. Abe shines too, with a touch of Jimmy Stewart about his demeanour – and compliments don’t come much higher than that.
But the star of the show, as she so often is, is Kiki, such a wonderful actress who is just so absorbing and natural on screen. She walks this line between comedy and pathos with such ease, which makes her the perfect fit for a Koreeda feature. Hopefully we won’t have to wait much longer for the director’s next either – as the term prolific is rightfully given to him with much pleasure.
After the Storm is released on June 2nd