Adapted from an Ernest Hemingway short story, After the Storm is set in the Bahamas in 1936 and it is about a young world-weary fisherman and scavenger, Arno (Benjamin Bratt). On the run from gangsters and the police, Arno stumbles upon a fortune in jewels from a luxury yacht sunk in a recent violent storm. This sudden windfall results in nothing but unhappiness and betrayal for the fisherman – and for everyone else who embarks upon the treasure hunt.
Ernest Hemingway seems to have gotten his idea for the short story serving as the basis for this movie from a local legend that is what took him to Key West in the 1930s: legend had it that a Spanish schooner went down during a storm and Hemingway’s friend Don Passos explored it and actually saw through a porthole bodies floating around as well as beautiful woman as well wearing jewelry, which gave Hemingway the idea to write his short story. As far as the movie goes, the screenplay is written (updated and improved) by Hemingway’s longtime friend and associate A.E. Hotchner. This is a rare case where the movie is actually much better than the literature it is based on and has something for lovers of action, drama, and suspense movies. The basic plot is two couples (Arno and his girlfriend Coquina and Jean-Pierre and his wife Janine) working together to uncover the treasure on a recently sunken ship. Greed and mixed affinities between the couples as well as the reappearance of characters I thought were gone make for some back-and-forth intrigue that keeps you guessing and make the ending an unpredictable surprise. The locations of the movie are beautiful (BTW, the movie was filmed in Belize, not in Bahamans as it depicted) and the movie is undoubtedly nicely photographed, while the story is extended backwards and forwards, filling in the ellipsis. The atmosphere is established by the soft orange tones and the ubiquitous wind that occurs naturally in just about every exterior scene. Arno is anything but anonymous, although he does fit that macho drifter character so popular with Hemingway and as he drifts through just about every scene in the film, you can follow the action reasonably well even if you can’t figure out what some of the characters are up to. Benjamin Bratt sits well in his role: in fact, he is good enough to carry the film through the foggy parts of its plot.