Starring Hiroshi Abe. In Japanese, with English subtitles. Rating unavailable
Coming soon after his bittersweet Our Little Sister, which found a family expanding against its own expectations, Japanese master Hirokazu Kore-eda takes a tenderly comedic look at a disintegrating family, and what potentially remains of the love that was once there in abundance. It’s easily one of his most satisfying efforts to date.
Unusually tall, handsome action-movie veteran Hiroshi Abe plays Ryôta Shinoda, a not-so-young-anymore novelist who hasn’t followed up on early success. Ryôta can’t quite bring himself to write but doesn’t do anything else well, apparently—unless you count long-shot gambling and some shambling private-eye work for a local hustler. His immaturity has cost him jobs and a marriage, but he’s still attempting to get back in the good graces of his understandably fed-up ex-wife (Yôko Maki) and their easygoing little boy (Taiyô Yoshizawa).
Perhaps this is a script deficiency, but our guy is surprisingly inarticulate for a writer, and he makes some pretty dumb decisions. But Ryôta does listen to his earthy mother (Kirin Kiki), who does her best—in Ozu-like fashion—to keep conflicting sides in harmony. It’s really the writer-director’s eye for ordinary human contact that stays with you, along with his propensity for suggesting deeper meanings in the silences between words. He also manages to hit some extra-sweet notes about this family in particular.
The film is slightly attenuated at almost two hours, but its long-simmering feelings (and long-running jokes) pay off when the titular typhoon arrives, throwing everyone into a quietly humane space that, if not quite happy, flourishes where hope has been carefully planted.