For a film filled with broken promises, dead dreams, conniving duplicity and desperation, “After the Storm” has a surprisingly light touch and odd charm.

Hiroshi Abe stars as Ryota, once a happily married, prize-winning novelist, now a seedy divorced private detective addicted to gambling. After the death of his father — who was also a gambler and loser — he visits the crowded apartment of his aged mother (Kirin Kiki), not to console her, but to look for possessions he can pawn for cash.

He doesn’t find much, but he stops for a bite anyway. A typhoon will be arriving in a few days, so he helps his mother move the plants on her balcony, breaking a window in the process. For a big, good-looking and apparently smart guy, Ryota is quite the loser.

How big a loser becomes clear as we see Ryota spying on his pretty ex-wife (Yoko Maki) and her affluent new boyfriend as they watch his young son (Taiyo Yoshizawa) listlessly play baseball. Ryota clearly wishes to reunite with his family, but he can’t stop gambling and scrambling for money.

When he has his son for a day, he scrounges the money to buy him some baseball cleats — even though he’s months behind on child support — and then takes the boy to see his grandmother, just as the typhoon is approaching. When his ex-wife arrives to pick up their son, the typhoon hits and she can’t get a cab to take them home. Everybody ends up spending the night with Grandma.

In a Hollywood film this would lead to hilarious hijinks and a warm family reconciliation. This isn’t a Hollywood film. But it is exquisitely human and oddly delightful, and a scene where Ryota, his ex-wife and son are chasing after lost lottery tickets on a playground during the typhoon is about as sweet as cinema gets; aren’t we all chasing after lost dreams blown every which way by the storm of life?

Writer-director Hirokazu Koreeda somehow manages to be upbeat about the downbeat, making a wrong-turn life still hopeful and sympathetic. Nothing’s all that different after the storm, but the sun shines and life is still worth weathering.

Tom Long is a longtime culture critic

‘After the Storm’


Not rated

Running time: 117 minutes

At The Detroit Film Theatre

Read or Share this story: