Combustible Celluloid
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With: Hiroshi Abe, Yoko Maki, Taiyo Yoshizawa, Kirin Kiki, Satomi Kobayashi, Sosuke Ikematsu, Lily Franky, Isao Hashizume
Written by: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Directed by: Hirokazu Kore-eda
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Japanese, with English subtitles
Running Time: 117
Date: 04/14/2017

After the Storm (2017)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

'Storm' Warming

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Though Hirokazu Kore-eda is probably still best known and loved for the beautiful fantasy After Life, in which the recently departed get to choose a favorite memory, make a film of it, and take it with them to the afterlife. But the director has refused to re-create the magic behind that film, and with Still Walking and his new After the Storm, he has instead slowly taken an equally lovely, profound, Ozu-like path.

In After the Storm, Ryota (Hiroshi Abe) is a published, award-winning author, though it has been some time since he has written anything. He works steadily at a detective agency that he initially joined as research for his writing. What little money he does have, he tends to gamble away, even when he should be paying his ex-wife child support. Near the film's beginning, he goes to visit his aged mother, Yoshiko (Kirin Kiki).

In one great scene they try to eat frozen-solid ice cream, scraping away at the little cups and not getting much sustenance out of it. He eventually decides he'd like to see more of his son, Shingo (Taiyo Yoshizawa), and possibly even reconcile with his ex, Kyoko (Yoko Maki). He coaxes them to spend a rainy night at his mother's place, hoping to work some kind of magic. But, of course, real life is what actually happens.

It's not exactly realism that Kore-eda is after here. He's interested in moments of life that are small and yet profound, and they are profound because they move. They are fleeting and they pass. Time moves on. There are regrets and hopes unrealized and actions left undone. There are new hopes and new happinesses. There is age and experience. I guess being stuck inside during a rainstorm can amplify these thoughts, make things seem a little more intimate, like maybe time is slowing down.

And I think that is what Kore-eda is up to here. Then there's his title, After the Storm, which leaves us with the question of what's next for these characters? And the answer is, of course, that we may not know anything more about these characters at the end of the film, but it may inspire us to think some more about our own "what's next."

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