AFTER THE STORM ( 2016)
Warm and equal relationships between old woman and adult daughter are very rare in the films I have written about. Kore Eda in Still Walking (2008) portrays mother and daughter conversing and cooking together but the distance between them is obvious. The mother teaches the daughter how to cook traditionally while the daughter expresses easier ways of providing for the family. Also the daughter eyes up the house of her parents under the cover of needing to look after them.
8 years later, with the same main actors (Hiroshi Abe and Kirin Kiki)) in After the Storm Kore Eda establishes in less than 4mins (titles footage ) a warm and equal relationship between mother and daughter after the death of the gambling, irresponsible Father. While writing death announcements, they tease each other, gossip and share criticisms and the rare good point of the dead man. The son, Ryota is also the but of criticism.
Kore Eda in an interview declared that he writes about family dynamics and compares Still Walking with After the Storm as families getting together or splitting. Pressed about his relationship with his father he is very short.
The film is made up of two parts of equal lengths but different content. The second part can be described as being about the family dynamic resulting from the separation of a man, Ryota, from his wife and child. With the help of his mother Ryota finally accepts the rupture and establishes a warm contact with his son.
In the first hour of the film, however, we see Ryota working as the Private Detective who wrote a successful novel in his youth. He is divorced and misses his wife and son. He spies on them. He is an addicted gambler as was his father. In need of money to pay maintenance for his son, he blackmails his clients.
I would argue that After the Storm deals also in a covert way with tolerance of flawed characters. My attention to a hidden meaning in some images was the brief shot in the title sequences of the grandmother carrying a heavy mattress. I searched the reviews for any comments about Ryota’s relationship with his younger, (also divorced with a child), colleague. Their physique is strikingly different. Ryota is tall and lean and his colleague short and round. Ryota is anxious, misses his ex-wife and child and spies on them. He cannot fulfil his maintenance payments or his son’s wishes. His colleague utters words of wisdom about divorce and children’s behaviour when they grow up and gives him hope. He stands by and helps Ryota by lending him money to gamble with, researches the wife’s partner and comments on his friend’s attachment to his lost cat.
We see Ryota searching his mother’s house for a valuable scroll but only finds an ink stone that he dismisses. He cheats on his clients and extorts money from them. He even blackmails a young student who is having an affair with his teacher. He is unable to fulfil his son’s desires.
Ryota can be seen as a selfish, irresponsible gambling addict. At least one reviewer expresses this judgement on him. However his colleague’s attitude of patient acceptance of his friend modifies our attitude. He does not appear in the second half where we come back to family dynamics. In that section of the film, Ryota establishes a warm relationship with his son, and accepts his divorce. He finds that the ink stone he found in his mother’s flat is valuable.
The song over the credits also indicates that Ryota is going to change his life.
Of course there are many other ways to write about this film. I found the presence of a character during half the footage who disappears in the second half too tempting not to investigate…