REVIEW: After the Storm

5 05 2017

“Every year, men are becoming less manly,” says Hiroshi Abe’s Ryota, a pot calling the kettle black if ever there were one. He’s a man who’s not ready to have a family yet, as stated by the woman who bore his child in a misguided effort to nudge him to such a place. And yet, this prolonged adolescence provides a career in private investigation of cheating husbands for failed novelist Ryota.

Kore-Eda Hirokazu’s “After the Storm” takes some time to acquaint us with Ryota’s life. It’s not a plot-driven film, which is not to say that nothing happens. A fair amount does, particularly surrounding his continued affection for his ex-wife as she moves onto a new beau and tries to consolidate custody. Meanwhile, Ryota is mostly stuck trying to stay above water financially and musing to his son, “I’m not who I want to be yet.”

It’s not Kore-Eda’s most consequential work, but since “After the Storm” never aspires to “Like Father, Like Son” levels of profundity, it never feels slight. The film provides another great showcase of the writer/director’s perceptive understanding of human interaction. Even without great thematic heft, spending two hours observing the world through his eyes is a worthwhile use of time. B

REVIEW: Our Little Sister

8 02 2017

our-little-sisterKore-Eda Hirokazu’s dramas possess a peerless delicacy in their domestic observations. He never seems to approach the material with gloves on, although the gentility takes an quiet yet conspicuous effort. The director’s “Our Little Sister,” on the other hand, feels a little more precious than his previous work.

Kore-Eda adapted the film from a manga series, “Umachi Diary,” rather than writing the screenplay from his own original idea. I’m not familiar with the source material and any obligation he might owe it. My best guess is that his one-step removal from creating the characters kept him from unlocking the same level of interiority he captured in “Like Father, Like Son” or “Still Walking.”

“Our Little Sister” has its moments of genuine, tender familial emotion. The story of three grown sisters living together who take in their recently orphaned half-sister Sachi, a hitherto unknown offspring of their late estranged father. Her presence in their life sets off soul-searching in each of the original trio and triggers the release of some pent-up resentment from their spurned mother. When Kore-Eda embraces the prickliness of their relationships, the film works. But he spends more of the film dancing around their emotions, obliquely conveying them without really expressing their potency. B-2stars

REVIEW: Like Father, Like Son

30 06 2014

Like Father Like SonThe title of the film “Like Father, Like Son” might lead you to think its as banal and thoughtless as the clichéd phrase from which it derives its name.  That couldn’t be farther from the truth about the movie, however.  Kore-Eda Hirokazu’s masterfully observed and delicately realized familial drama is one of the most thought-provoking films I have ever had the privilege to see.

Hirokazu begins with a somewhat well-established premise of nature vs. nature, but there’s nothing familiar about where he ultimately takes us in “Like Father, Like Son.”  The lives of two families, the wealthy Nonomiyas and the working-class Saikis, are upended when it is revealed that their six-year-old sons were switched in the hospital.

Where to go from there presents the first of many wrenching dilemmas faced by the characters.  As their comfortable patterns of life are shattered, everyone affected is forced to rethink what exactly it means to be a parent and a child.  To be fair, it’s more about what it means to be a father, although that shouldn’t preclude any gender from grappling with the questions raised by the film.

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