‘After Life’ Review – A Gentle Celebration of the Small Moments in Life / Available On Streaming Rental or Purchase


Hirokazu Kore-eda’s films are a treasure trove of cinematic gems that explore the intricacies of human relationships, the fragility of life, and the beauty of ordinary moments. Among his works, After Life stands as a gentle celebration of the significance of seemingly small, mundane experiences, highlighting the profound impact they have on our lives.

Released in 1998, the film is set in an otherworldly location resembling a nondescript administrative building where the souls of the recently deceased are processed. Upon arrival, these souls are asked to choose one memory from their lives to relive for all eternity. The premise alone sets the stage for the exploration of life’s essence, as the characters are forced to distill their lives into a single, cherished moment.

Kore-eda employs a unique narrative structure that combines elements of documentary and fiction. He interviews real people, asking them about their chosen memories, and these interviews are interspersed with fictionalized scenes. The juxtaposition of real people’s recollections with his fictional narrative underscores the universality of the film’s theme: that the importance of ordinary moments has always been an intrinsic part of the human experience.

One of the film’s most striking aspects is the transformation of ordinary moments into extraordinary ones. The memories chosen by the deceased often revolve around simple, everyday experiences. A mother recalls the taste of her son’s soup, a man revisits a rainy day under an umbrella, and another cherishes the sensation of flying a kite. These memories are not of grand accomplishments or momentous occasions; they are a testament to the beauty hidden within the ordinary.

Kore-eda’s camera work is essential in this transformation. He employs a gentle and observant style, using close-ups to capture the subtle emotions and details in these seemingly mundane moments. The raindrop on the umbrella, the steam rising from a bowl of soup, the delicate movements of a kite in the wind—this film magnifies these elements and invites the audience to notice the grace in the everyday.

After Life also taps into the universal feelings of nostalgia and the power of remembrance. The act of choosing a single memory to relive for eternity is a poignant reflection of the way we remember and cherish certain moments in our own lives. The film prompts us to reflect on our most treasured memories, instigating a sense of nostalgia that is often associated with the small, ordinary moments that might have been overlooked at the time.

“The film prompts us to reflect on our most treasured memories, instigating a sense of nostalgia that is often associated with the small, ordinary moments that might have been overlooked at the time.”

The emotional resonance of the film is palpable as we are drawn into the lives of the characters. Through their stories, we are shown that the profound experiences of life are often tucked away in the seemingly insignificant, waiting to be uncovered. It’s a reminder that our lives are composed of countless simple, everyday occurrences that collectively form the rich tapestry of our existence.

As the deceased go through the process of selecting their memories, they share their stories with the interviewers and with each other. This sharing creates a sense of community and connection that is both heartwarming and poignant. The characters’ discussions about their lives and choices are touching, as they reveal the diversity and depth of human experiences.

In these conversations, we witness the characters grappling with their identities, learning about each other, and coming to terms with their pasts. The film beautifully illustrates how connecting through storytelling allows individuals to better understand themselves and others, reinforcing the idea that our lives are inherently interconnected and enriched by the shared experiences of the everyday.

But Kore-eda’s After Life is more than just a celebration of small, ordinary moments in life; it is a profound meditation on the human condition. By asking us to consider what memories we would choose to relive, the film forces us to examine our own lives. It inspires introspection and contemplation, urging us to recognize the beauty in the everyday occurrences that often go unnoticed.

In a world that increasingly values the extraordinary, After Life invites us to look beyond the grandiose and appreciate the simple pleasures of life, whether it’s the taste of a favorite dish, the sound of a loved one’s laughter, or the feeling of rain on our skin. These simple moments of joy, when cherished, become the building blocks of our existence.

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