After the Storm, the latest film from writer-director Hirokazu Koreeda (Maborosi, Nobody Knows), opens with a discussion of the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, where U.S. figure skater Janet Lynn fell during her free skate, came up smiling, and won the hearts of the Japanese audience.
Forty-five years later the reaction of elderly Yoshiko (Kirin Kiki), the mother of Storm’s central character, is very different. “She fell on her butt and got a perfect score,” Kiki grouses. “It doesn’t make sense!”
After the Storm is about a hard passage in middle-aged life: the long years after failure, when your career and your marriage have not worked out, when any fair judge would bury you in the standings and you are not coming up smiling. Yoshiko’s son, Ryota (Hiroshi Abe), is an unshaven, hangdog scuzzball, a corrupt private eye. But he used to be so promising! (That’s where the trouble always begins…) In his youth Ryota won an award for his first novel. Now he uses his detective skills to lurk around behind his ex-wife Kyoko (Yoko Maki) and extort money to fuel his gambling habit. His own mother compares him to a tangerine tree that doesn’t bear fruit. He is scrambling, but he’s not getting any purchase on the ice.