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Quiet 'After the Storm' is a meditative study on character and family
Hiroshi Abe and Taiyo Yosizawa in "After the Storm." - photo by Josh Terry
AFTER THE STORM 3 stars Hiroshi Abe, Yoko Maki, Satomi Kobayashi, Sosuke Ikematsu; not rated (probable PG for scattered profanity and some sexual references); Broadway

After the Storm is a sad but insightful story about a father trying to reconcile his mistakes.

Shinoda Ryta (Hiroshi Abe) is a middle-aged Japanese man who never quite grew up. For a time, he was a successful novelist, was married and had a son, but various vices and emotional shortcomings gradually untied his lifes various threads. When we meet him, he is bleary-eyed and lanky, trying to reconnect with his ex-wife and estranged son.

Ryta is working as a private detective, traveling around town with his partner Machida (Sosuke Ikematsu), examining the seedy underbelly of the local unfaithful. He initially took the job as a part-time gig to research his latest book, but as Rytas life unwound, the side job became his only means of income.

Coincidentally, his new job skills enable him to track his ex-wife, Kyko (Yko Maki), who appears to be in a new relationship. When Ryta sees that her new beau has bought his son, Shingo (Taiy Yoshizawa), a new baseball glove, the already-agitated father becomes desperate.

The one anchor in Rytas life is his mother, Yoshiko (Kirin Kiki), who has lived alone in a run-down apartment since his father died. Shes fairly happy, alternating time with her family including Rytas sister Chinatsu (Satomi Kobayashi) and her children with a classical music appreciation group run by an elderly music professor who lives nearby.

To say After the Storm is character-driven feels like a dramatic understatement. Aside from an incoming typhoon that represents the literal interpretation of the films title, director Hirokazu Koreedas film is a quiet, contemplative work, almost documentary in style, that simply follows Ryta around as he tries to reconnect with his estranged family.

Ryta is allowed to see his son once a month, though Kyko threatens to end those meetings since her ex-husband never manages to bring his alimony payments to the exchanges. We watch Ryta and Shingo spend a day together, buying baseball cleats and indulging in some of Dads vices, like buying lottery tickets. Ryta insists that buying lottery tickets isnt the same as gambling, but both exercises take their toll on the author/detectives meager earnings.

Abe plays Ryta as a character who is both sympathetic and sad, the kind of protagonist you cheer for but understand when he falls short. Even as a detective, his ethics are questionable, as we see him confront a woman hed been hired to investigate with the evidence hes gathered against her, then offer to destroy the evidence if she can offer him a better deal.

Later in the film, his mother manages to get Ryta, Kyko and Shingo to stay with her at her apartment when the storm finally arrives, secretly hoping to reunite their shattered family unit. Rytas mother may be the last person who truly believes in him, and their relationship is just one of many explorations of the family dynamic through Koreedas film.

After the Storm is a quiet meditation, but it does include some lighter moments to keep things from getting too dreary (Kiki's performance is especially enjoyable), and its sweet to see Ryta take his son around his old neighborhood, excitedly pointing out the different places where he had adventures as a child. Koreedas film isnt so much a cautionary tale as it is an examination of a mans reconciliation with his failures, and his resolve to make the best of his life in spite of them.

After the Storm is not rated, but might earn a PG for scattered profanity and some sexual references; it is presented in Japanese, with English subtitles; running time: 117 minutes.
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