Hirozaku Kore-eda's THE DAYS AFTER is a short film commissioned by the NHK television station for a 4-episode series of ghost stories called KAIDAN HORROR CLASSICS. The series took a more reflective spin on the traditional ghost story by noted writers and film directors who normally might not necessarily work in this genre; uniting the diverse talents of Shinya Tsukamoto, Sang-il Lee, Hirokazu Kore-eda and Masayuki Ochiai.
Written by Saisei Murou, Hirozaku Kore-eda's THE DAYS AFTER might be a horror or ghost story, but it also relates to very real human feelings that only heighten its impact. It's a revenant story and thus derived from a sense of bereavement, loss, sadness and reflection. The fact that the revenant figure is also a young child makes this material then that is perfectly suited to a director like Kore-eda (AFTER LIFE, NOBODY KNOWS, I WISH). And it shows. Kore-eda's delicate handling of the sensitivities of the situation only serves to make the underlying psychology all the more disturbing and even faintly creepy.
Even though they have a new baby, the death of their firstborn child when he was only one year-old still has an acute affect on a young couple. The father (Ryo Kase) visits the grave site regularly, and he often believes he sees the boy, or a boy who he imagines would be the same age now as his son, out of the corner of his eye near the site of the grave. One day, the boy follows him and returns home to the joy of his mother and father, but both the parents and the dead boy can't help feeling that there's something wrong with the arrangement.
Like the other directors in the series, Kore-eda uses familiar tricks employed in horror movies but finds new and meaningful ways to employ them. Figures emerge out of the background or the edge of the frame not to make you jump as much as to show how the deep emotions associated with loss and bereavement can terrifyingly creep up on you. Suggestion and unspoken allusion play their part, but they are integrated fully into the framework of the story, the power of imagination reflected in the nature of the father being a writer. One of the books he has written about his search for his birth-mother is highly acclaimed, but the writer confesses to his editor that it was purely a work of fiction work. His ability to write so well on the subject however reveals just as much about this deep personal feelings and sense of abandonment as an adopted child that resurfaces here in his need to bring his dead son back to life. These are dangerous and damaging thoughts and THE DAYS AFTER weaves them brilliantly into an intense little story that is as deeply moving as it is unsettling.
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