A Film With as Much Heartbreak as it has Charm
DIRECTED BY HIROKAZU KORE-EDA/JAPANESE/2017
Most films, and most avenues of art, tend to be cynical and critical on most other topics in life, but have a romantic view of artists. In the struggle that a lot of young artists have, whether to go for it and live your dreams or settle in and live a normal yet risk-free life, films often say go for it! And they also extend that lesson to artists of all ages. “You only live once”, “You’re never too young”, “Your dreams are your calling”, “You’ll regret not taking chances on your deathbed”.
These messages are inspiring, feel good and oftentimes reflect a dilemma the filmmakers had to go through, with a nice little piece of reassurance in their work that they made the right decision. In Hirokazu Kore-eda’s wonderful new film, After the Storm, he looks at the flip side of that. Maybe there is a time when going for it and staying true to your artistic dream isn’t the best idea. Maybe that’s when others are counting on you and your dreams become a direct conflict to your responsibilities.
After the Storm hits on all kinds of ideas and emotions, from the pain we cause our children by trying to capture what was done to us as children, to who are you responsible to in life, to even a nice motif of caring and creation through cooking.
Ryoto (Hiroshi Abe) is a struggling novelist with one successful book under his belt. Unfortunately, that came a long time ago. Now he’s just a deadbeat dad who loves his ex wife and his son, in that order. Kyoko (Yoko Maki) is his ex and she has run out of patience for him. What made him charming and a dreamer in the past now only causes harm to herself and especially their son, Shingo (Taiyo Yoshizawa).
Ryoto refuses to give up in his integrity. He is working on a new novel, and when offered the chance to write a manga comic, something that is apparently considered below his literary standards, he turns it down. Doesn’t seem so bad when you hear that, until you realize he is drastically behind on his child support and that burden is falling hard on his ex.
To make some money when he’s not writing, Ryoto turns to private investigating. He catches people cheating and breaks up marriages. Something that I would think has less integrity than writing a comic, until you realize that perhaps it’s the destruction of others that brings him some relief. If art is to create then destruction is the opposite side of that coin, and mass destruction is a closer cousin to his needs than uninspired creation. He’s managed to destroy everything in his life, so why not others?
After the Storm hits on all kinds of ideas and emotions, from the pain we cause our children by trying to capture what was done to us as children, to who are you responsible to in life, to even a nice motif of caring and creation through cooking. Kore-eda’s directing style has such an intangible quality to it. It’s so hard to describe why you love it as much as you do. His casting is perfect, his characters have this charm that matches the film and his shots just flow with such fluidity. If there’s one thing to criticize, it’s simply that he may have undercut his own message of knowing the time and place to take risks as an artist and knowing when to say no, as I imagine anyone thinking about being a filmmaker would be even more inspired to make this their career after watching this amazing little movie.