After the Storm (4 stars)

After the Storm

Hirokazu Kore-eda delivers yet another quietly powerful and thought-provoking drama

When 11-year-old Shingo (Taiyo Yoshizawa) is asked who his hero is, he confidently replies, 'Grandma.' He's referring to the recently widowed Yoshiko (Kirin Kiki) who lives by herself in a cramped apartment that exudes warmth, comfort and the aroma of mouth-watering cuisine. She's mother to a daughter who occasionally takes advantage of her goodwill and a son named Ryota (Hiroshi Abe) who, like his late father before him, has gambled away his fortune. Ryota is an award-winning novelist, divorcee and father, limited to one visit with Shingo a month due to his incredibly unreliable temperament.

Much of Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda's poignant new film about growth, the passing of time and generational differences follows Ryota through his day-to-day life as a dodgy private detective. But it is in Yoshiko's apartment that the true emotional nourishment is served up, as Yoshiko provides a welcoming shelter for Ryota, his son and ex-wife, so that they may weather a metaphorical and literal storm.

Kiki turns in a gorgeous performance as Yoshiko. From the very first frames, as she stirs her curry and laments her life, she convincingly conveys playful wit, intelligence, tenderness and a keen eye for crap. A bittersweet tune marks the arrival of Ryota, a crumpled shell of a man; Abe adds endearing humour to this loveably misguided character, who spies on his son's baseball games from afar and quizzes him about his mother's new boyfriend.

As ever, Kore-eda masterfully investigates the nooks and crannies of the commonplace with a delicate hand, posing questions about destiny and chance. He throws in the tasty and less flavoursome ingredients of life to deliver a hearty dish, where unfulfilled dreams rest closely beside hopeful ambition. And just like much of his previous work – including Like Father, Like Son and Our Little Sister – he probes the nature / nurture debate in a quietly powerful, thought-provoking way.

Selected release from Fri 2 Jun.

After the Storm

  • 4 stars
  • 2016
  • Japan
  • 1h 58min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Hirokazu Koreeda
  • Cast: Hiroshi Abe, Yôko Maki, Taiyô Yoshizawa, Kirin Kiki
  • UK release: 2 June 2017

Yoshiko (Kiki) is recently widowed and living by herself in a cramped apartment where she periodically welcomes crumpled son Ryota (Abe) and his son Shingo (Yoshizawa). Poignant film about growth and the passing of time, with a gorgeous performance from Kiki as the witty, tender, no-nonsense Yoshiko. Quietly powerful.