After the Storm
by Christie Robb
There’s something about being a parent that helps you put into context and process the resentments you held about your own parents’ mistakes. You understand why they zigged when they should have zagged. Having the responsibility to create some sort of stability and comfort for a child drives home the fact that adulting is something that we make up as we go. None of us is perfect. And we all make mistakes. So, we treasure, even more, the good memories.
After the Storm is a meditation on this theme. Writer/Director Hirokazu Koreeda centers the film on Shinoda Ryôta (Hiroshi Abe), a moderately successful novelist turned private detective. Shinoda mourns the death of his father, the demise of his marriage, his separation from his adolescent son, a stalled career, and a gambling addiction.
He’s at the point where he has to decide whether to give up hope for being a late-bloomer and admit failure.
Unable to find happiness in his present life outside of a cheap high in the midst of a gambling binge, he’s eternally looking backwards at the opportunities he let slip away or dreaming about a future where he can finally buy his kid that new top-of-the line baseball glove, finish his novel, oust his ex’s new boyfriend, or win the lottery.
After the death of his father (also a gambling addict), Shinoda starts showing up at his mom’s house to help her out a little bit, to give her some spending money, and also to look for stuff to pawn. He’s months behind on child support. He’s turning down paid writing gigs to blackmail high school students. He’s spying on his ex.
One day, on a visitation with his son, Shinoda takes him over to his mom’s so the kid can visit with his grandmother and Shinoda can weasel a free meal. The weather turns bad just as Shinoda’s ex-wife (Yôko Maki) drops by for pickup. A typhoon ultimately strands the estranged family together at Shinoda’s mom’s cramped apartment. Initially awkward, the forced extended contact gives Shinoda a chance to live in the present, confront some of his flaws, and recreate a treasured moment that he shared with his father.
This isn’t a simple movie of redemption. But it’s not a melancholic tear-jerker either. It is a movie that will make you think about what kind of person you thought you might be when you grew up and weigh that against your assessment of your current character. And if you are a parent, it might make you wonder about what particular moment your kid might remember years later and wish to relive.