After the Storm [Umi yori mo mada fukaku]

Hirokazu Koreeda
Release Year:
Length (mins):
Screening Date:
  • 21 Feb 2023
  • Categories:
    Comedy, Drama

    After the death of his father, a divorced writer (who has taken a job as a private detective to make ends meet) struggles to reconnect with his son and ex-wife.

    Film Notes

    ‘After the Storm’ (‘Umi yori mo mada fukaku’): Cannes Review.

    A divorced father tries to put his family back together in director Kore-eda Hirokazu’s family tale.

    A young divorced dad tries to get back into the good graces of his ex-wife and son in After the Storm (Umi yori mo mada fukaku), a classic Japanese family drama of gentle persuasion and staggering simplicity from Kore-eda Hirokazu. As sweet as a ripe cherry at first glance, it has a rocky pit, as viewers who bite deeply will find out. More casual audiences may not even perceive it. This bittersweet peek into the human comedy has a more subtle charm than flashier films like the director’s child-swapping fable Like Father, Like Son, but the filmmaking is so exquisite and the acting so calibrated it sticks with you.  

    The theme, which is spelled out several times, is that you can’t always have the life you want, or be who you want to be. That sounds sad enough, but it’s a fact that has to be accepted by the good-hearted but befuddled characters whose families have come apart at the seams. The grandfather has just died and his wife of 50 years (veteran actress Kiki Kilin in a thoroughly mischievous mood) wastes no time throwing his things out of their small apartment in a housing complex. He never gave her the life she wanted, or the deluxe three-bedroom lodgings on the “rich” side of the park. Now it’s too late. All this comes out in a joshing, light-hearted chat with her grown daughter as they fix a meal together in her cramped kitchen.

    The main story belongs to Ryota, played by Kore-eda regular Abe Hiroshi (Thermae Romae). With his whimsical, good-looking face, lanky body and disheveled wardrobe, he could have stepped out of a modern Italian comedy. Ryota is a prize-winning novelist who hasn’t published anything for 15 years. Under the guise of doing research on his next novel, he works in a private detective agency run by a cagey Lily Franky without overly investing himself in terms of time or effort. This affords several moments of humor when he and his young sidekick slouch around town on a case.

    Mostly he pines for his ex, the pretty Kyoko (Like Father, Like Son’s Maki Yoko) and his 12-year-old son Shingo (TV actor Yoshizawa Taiyo.) Spying on them with the help of his young detective-partner, he learns Kyoko is dating a pompous but well-off suitor who is insinuating himself into Shingo’s life. With the help of his sharp-tongued but loving mother he makes one last stab at getting back together with Kyoko and Shingo.

    Ryota and Kyoko seem made for each other, if only his personality weren’t so dreamy and immature, and hers so anxious and hard. Like his late father, he is an inveterate small-time gambler, a deeply ingrained habit that has ruined his family life. Whenever he earns some cash selling compromising photos to divorce-hungry husbands or wives, he immediately loses it at the bicycle racetrack or the nearest pachinko parlor. Any other film would introduce some major turnaround that would bring Ryota to his senses and make him reform on the spot. Kore-eda does bring in a small typhoon, the 24th of the year in that location, but the tempest leads to a quiet, realistic finale.

    The story is beautifully balanced between gentle comedy and the melancholy reality of how people really are. Leopards are not going to change their spots, and each of the characters is shown to have fixations they can’t shake off, even when it means their dreams will remain unfulfilled. The peremptory way Kyoko demands “my 100,000 yen” for child support reveals her attachment to money. Granny is a warmer, more generous soul, but she often cuts her kids down to size with sharp remarks that belittle them.

    Even little Shingo seems to have his destiny laid out for him after Dad introduces him to the excitement of gambling on lottery tickets. Yoshizawa plays him a little introverted, as though hesitantly waiting for an invitation to come out of his shell and start living. Ryota does that for him. Maybe Shingo will even aspire to become a writer; like his dad, he prefers not to play the hero and hit a home run, but to draw a walk to home base, and one has to admire that consistency of character.

    J-pop and folk singer Hanaregumi accompanies the often non-stop dialogue with a lilting soundtrack of popular music and songs with a local feel.

    THR staff, The Hollywood Reporter, MAY 19, 2016.

    “Are you who you wanted to be?” asks the young son of former novelist and gambling addict Ryota (Abe Hiroshi). It’s one of the central questions in this sweet-natured comedy about father/son relationships and the gifts and curses that are passed down through generations. Light in tone and genuinely funny, this may not feel like the most substantial work from the director who dissected similar themes with a sharper scalpel in Like Father, Like Son. However, it has definite commercial appeal and will likely connect with the audience which responded to the gentle warmth of Our Little Sister. The film should find an enthusiastic reception on the festival circuit, and, largely thanks to the formidable comedic chops of veteran actress Kiki Kirin, will generate positive word of mouth from fans of wisecracking grannies.

    Ryota is a writer who is stuck at his moment of glory – the prize-winning novel he wrote fifteen years ago. It’s a success that he has been unable to recreate. Kore-eda pointedly makes sure that any moments of insight come from characters other than Ryota. At a point when his divorced wife Kyoko (Maki Yoko) is moving on with her life and into a new relationship, Ryota is anchored to the past. Kore-eda makes effective use of Abe’s height. He’s perpetually hunched, awkwardly, within the frame, a neat visual metaphor for his discomfort with the way his life has turned out.

    Now working as a private detective while he researches a nonexistent second novel, Ryota is not above extorting money from the targets he is sent to watch. A hopeless gambling habit means that despite the illicit windfalls, he can’t pay his son’s child support.

    Even as Ryota is struggling to stay part of his son’s life, he is grappling with some unresolved issues with his own late father. Meanwhile, his mother Yoshiko (Kiki) has cheerfully bounced back following the death of her husband, binning his belongings with a pragmatism that borders on the callous. Ryota is crushed – he had been hoping that there would be something worth pawning in his father’s effects but it seems that his only inheritance is his gambling habit.

    Like Kore-eda’s 2008 family drama Still Walking, this is a film which is interested in the architecture, both emotional and physical, of the family home. The most successful and focussed scenes are those which take place in Yoshiko’s compact flat. It’s a bone of contention that she is still living there and a constant reminder of Ryota’s failure to make enough money to relocate her. Even when the action takes place outside of Yoshiko’s home, Kore-eda fills the frame with boxes which evoke the four tight walls of the apartment.

    Kore-eda makes much use of symbolic imagery. The typhoon which batters the city over a pivotal summer night echoes the storm of emotions that Ryota must negotiate. And later, having achieved some kind of closure with the memory of his father, Ryota wears his dad’s shirt. It’s at that point that he finally inherits something of worth.



    What you thought about After the Storm [Umi yori mo mada fukaku]

    Film Responses

    Excellent Good Average Poor Very Poor
    11 (26%) 22 (51%) 10 (23%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%)
    Total Number of Responses: 43
    Film Score (0-5): 4.02

    Collated Response Comments

    98 members and guests attended this screening. We received 43 responses delivering a film score of 4.02 and a hit rate of 43%.

    All comments are show below.

    "The most extraordinary thing about this film is that the main protagonist, a feckless man adrift in middle age, who robs his mother, cheats his boss, blackmails his clients, loves his son but is unable to make any real connection with him or his ex wife as he is endlessly dragged back to the gambling that was his main connection with his own workshy father, remains somewhat sympathetic. Perhaps because none of it appears vindictive, he is a giant shambling child trapped between his success and his, and his father's failure. His gambling appears an infantile regression to happier times, even his considerably younger associate indulges him like a doting parent. After the storm of the title it seems he may be about to break the circle as he grinds ink on his father's block, is he going to pay what he owes to Kyoto to honour his debt and return to writing? Thus igniting a re-balanced relationship with son and ex-wife? Does a happy ending beckon brightly over the horizon? Apparently not... What helps this beautifully but gently realised tale of a life wandered quietly but inexorably astray is the lovely patina of ordinary wear and tear on the interiors, dusty back streets and Ryota's weary features. I assume the message is that one should strive to know oneself, not to aim for a version of oneself defined by others expectations".

    "A great slice of life film, focussing on a man who has lost his way -- or perhaps never quite found it. One striking moment comes towards the end, when our protagonist is asked to sign a copy of his award-winning book, using an old ink block he has taken to a pawn shop for some quick cash. He takes his time, preparing the block for use, and for the first time in the entire story we see this man retain some semblance of self-respect once again".

    "Total lack of the Japanese authenticity of their culture. The story of the family unit was cathartically devoid Attempts to show empathy for the struggles with banishment of Ryota after his divorce, financial problems. A sitcom of life worldwide, which had potential to be exploited both emotionally and culturally".

    "This film does a good job of driving home the message that real life doesn't have a happy ending (or middle for that matter). Great acting especially from grandma".

    "For me this film explored the addiction to gambling: how it manifested itself in the main character and how it affected him, his family and all he came into closer contact with. The excellent acting and dialogues, the musical background, the claustrophobic interiors, the run-down environment as well as the gentle humour completed the portrayal".

    "Once again, another glimpse into another culture and sometimes showing there is a lot in common. The film portrayed very well the depths addicts will go to get by and the constant lying required. The use of a simple clean white shirt indicated hope very well".

    "I enjoyed this gentle family drama. Many wise words exchanged".

    "Another very enjoyable Japanese film. While the main story focussed in on Ryota, a somewhat likeable character who had few redeeming features, I thought his mother stole the show. Good performances all round and an engaging film, even though not a lot happened. Thanks".

    "I was completely drawn into this believable family story - beautifully told in a non-judgmental and nuanced way. The disappointments and small joys of everyday life played out authentically by some brilliant acting".

    "Measured pace - about real people & feelings - wonderful".

    "Such recognisable characters and family relationships!" "Insightful. Great".

    "A human story - very sensitively told - something different".

    “Lovely believable relationships. A bit slow & not really resolving anything!”

    “Gradually gets you involved into the family and its life”.

    “Gentle Humour. Very enjoyable”.    “Enjoyed it”.

    “A fascinating film – vey sensitive with a sense of inevitably – no fairy take ending. Slow in parts – gentle film and poignant”.

    “This was an interesting film, at times frustrating”. “Enjoyed but rather slow”.

    “Charming but a bit long”. “A bit slow – but still thought provoking”. “A bit slow”.

    “I found it very slow to start with. Really liked the grandma character but didn’t warm to the main character at all and didn’t find him very credible”. “Very slow and ponderous”.

    “Slow to start…picked up a bit. But still didn’t seem to go anywhere until right at the end”.

    “Very charming – the mother was a total star and was more humorous and emotional than expressed in most Japanese films”.

    “Well acted but not for me – slow moving”. “Not for me – too slow and too long”.


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