Two popular entries from the Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival, “After the Storm” and “The Midwife,” will replay at the Film Center this weekend. “After the Storm” is a Japanese domestic drama, and “The Midwife,” a French one.
In “After the Storm,” Shinoda Ryota (Hiroshi Abe, one of Japan’s most popular film and TV stars) has lost his mojo as a prizewinning novelist and taken up work as a private detective. Like his deceased father, he gambles away most of the money he makes. His investigations usually consist of tracking down marital infidelity. But he also spies on his ex-wife, Kyoko (Yoko Maki), and hopes for a better relationship with his son, Shingo (Taiyo Yoshizawa). He’s especially distressed to learn his ex-wife’s boyfriend has given Shingo a baseball glove.
When a typhoon hits, he’s confined to his mother’s apartment with his mother, Shingo, and Kyoko. While there, he looks around for things he can pawn, in hopes of buying his son baseball equipment or catching up on his child-support payments. Although he’s broke, he still gives his mother money, but then borrows money from his sister.
Don’t expect violence or car chases in this subtle film. “After the Storm” relies on conversations among the principals to drive the narrative. Writer and director Hirokazu Koreeda has a deft touch for revealing what makes the characters tick, and comes up with a deeply moving film.
In “The Midwife,” Claire (Catherine Frot) has a satisfying life bringing babies into the world. Then Béatrice (Catherine Deneuve) reconnects with her, upending Claire’s comfortable existence. Béatrice was the mistress of Claire’s father, whom she abandoned many years ago just before he died. This experience has left Claire suspicious of, and angry with, a woman whom she loved as a child. The two have very different personalities. Claire is organized and disciplined, while Béatrice is a bonne vivante, spending her time drinking, eating well, and gambling.
In a subplot, Claire meets Paul Baron (Olivier Gourmet), who gardens next to her. Aloof and resistant at first, she warms up to this truck driver who pursues her with determination. In one charming vignette, Claire and Béatrice take a ride in Paul’s truck, with Béatrice taking a turn at the wheel.
In another plot permutation, Claire’s son Simon (Quentin Dolmaire) informs his mother that he’s dropping out of medical school and wants to become a midwife like his mother. On top of it, his girlfriend is pregnant, much to Claire’s dismay.
The reason Béatrice comes back into Claire’s life becomes evident when Claire learns Béatrice is ill. As with Paul, she gradually opens up, and the nurturing instincts underlying her career as a midwife lead her to support Béatrice.
The celebrated Deneuve animates her role as Béatrice, but Frot is equally as accomplished as Claire. Martin Provost won a César in 2009 for his film “Séraphine,” and it is clear he has remained both skilled and insightful as a writer and director.
For more information about these films and other events at the M.V. Film Center, visit mvfilmsociety.com.