After the Storm (2017)

Viewed March 20th

Character study of a Japanese man who found early literary success but has since wandered between day jobs and been unable to keep up with his child support. 

Like his previous film, Our Little Sister, Hikokazu Kore-eda's After the Storm is light on plot or the sort of eye-catching concept of his Nobody Knows (2004). Instead, it slowly absorbs the viewer into a web of believable characters and slice-of-life events. There's no selling the viewer on the film world or using effects to draw them in; on the contrary, a door is opened through a seamless presentation of gestures and the viewer is given the freedom to enter or leave as they please. The risk of this type of approach is that in our busy world no one will care enough to enter; the reward is that, if they do, the results could be very rich. And, indeed, the themes often reflect this approach, urging viewer's to slow down and appreciate the finer things, etc. In many of his films, Kore-eda examines the relationships between children and adults in non-traditional family dynamics and slowly builds toward an emotional climax. Ideally, that climax should feel authentic and surprise the viewer by how much emotion they find themselves feeling. After the Storm hits all the right buttons on the way to creating this type of experience. Its protagonist is a novelist and the film has the textures and grace notes of a good, realist novel. Everything seems to be chugging along, but when you get to the final scenes, in which the protagonist confronts his own shortcomings in order to be a better father to his son, that deep, rich feeling of emotion we crave from this type of film experience somehow misses the mark. In comparison with Our Little Sister, there's ultimately something self-conscious about its reveling in small things that feels less magical and organic and more like a trope being replicated. Of course, After the Storm is still a powerful, artistic film that holds up better than the vast majority of stuff that will be released this year, but I found myself interested in the fact that at the end, I didn't feel that wise warmth I was expecting to feel after the storm.