This is a quietly serious and humane film that tells a Japanese story which has universal interest and appeal.
Over a number of years, the director, Hirokazu Koreeda, has made several films which have been very moving indeed, including Nobody Knows, Like Father Like Son, Our Little Sister. They are well worth seeing, as is this film, After the Storm.
The director’s themes are from ordinary Japanese life, perhaps best described as middle-class or lower middle class. He is interested in families, in marriage, separation and divorce. He is also interested in the relationship between the generations. And, particularly, in the three films mentioned as with this one, parenting, often between fathers and sons.
The father in this film, Ryoto, has been a successful novelist, winning an award but not progressing in his career. He has married but has not been successful in relating well to his wife whom he loves or being a strong presence in the life of his son. At this stage of his life, he is working as a private detective (with a very enthusiastic young associate). The key problem is that he has a gambling problem, sometimes winning at the velodrome (as we see him here), playing machines, buying lottery tickets, sponging on his young friend – and even deceiving some of his clients to get more money from them.
The other central character in this film is his mother. A widow after 50 years of marriage, never having quite had the life she might have imagined, living in the same apartment for 40 years with very mixed memories of her husband, she has both a son and a daughter. Whenever these two meet, they clash. But Ryoto likes to visit his mother, always in search of some money or something that he might pawn (something which his father did a great deal), remembering his abilities as a novelist but unable to make any progress.
His mother is devoted to her children though she sees them fairly objectively. She fusses over them, provides them with meals, enjoys talking with them, walking with them.
Japan has many typhoons and, here, the year has had a record number of them. As the weather changes, and the father takes his son out for the day, lavishing on him money that he does not have (though damaging a pair of cleats so that he can ask for a discount, and also pretending not to be hungry as he takes his son for a burger, and buying him expensive lottery tickets), he decides to take his son to see his grandmother, tells him stories about his own relationship with his father. He invites his ex-wife, who now has someone else in her life who serves as a father-figure for the boy, to come to his mother’s to collect him.
With the oncoming typhoon and the rain, the family stay the night, a joy for the grandmother, an opportunity for some serious sequences where husband and ex-wife reflect on their lives, with the ex-wife talking with her mother-in-law for whim she has great respect, with the father talking to his son.
With the sun coming out the next day – and the novelist does get a boost from finding one of his father’s more valuable possessions – he walks off into his day without any assurance that life will necessarily be any better – but, as the title suggests, after the storm the sun comes out.
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Review by the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting