Release Date – 4th June 2021, Cert – 12, Run-time – 1 hour 29 minutes, Director – Aleem Khan
On finding out that her husband (Nasser Memarzia) was having an affair, Mary (Joanna Scanlan) travels across the English Channel to France to learn more about his second life.
We see very little of Mary (Joanna Scanlen) and her husband Ahmed (Nasser Memarzia) together. That of which we do see suggests a potentially distant relationship. As they return home one evening Mary goes to make tea as her husband sits down in the other room, still in frame. In the dimly lit shot we see him unexplainedly pass away. Although there’s a hint of distance between the pair Mary’s pain is still clear. The impact of her husband’s death weighs on her immediately as her quiet life possibly becomes ever quieter.
However, she soon discovers that Ahmed, a ferry boat captain between France and England, was having an affair on the other side of the English Channel. Wishing to learn about his second life she travels to France to meet the woman he was having an affair with. Soon after arriving in the country she finds herself becoming the cleaner for Genevieve (Nathalie Richard) and her son Solomon (Talid Ariss) as they prepare to move house, both fully expecting Ahmed to turn up. As she learns about Ahmed’s second family Mary gradually grows close to, even if still with uncertainty and apprehension on both sides, Solomon as he opens up about his relationship with his father. It’s in these two characters that we find the most connection and understanding, they certainly get a fair-deal of screen-time and perhaps their distance with the same character creates interest in terms of how their viewpoints, ages and responses differ. Feelings that are brought about by the strength and consistency of the two performances.
The two figures, who appear to have spent their lives keeping their emotions held in and speaking little to anyone outside of their small spheres, create a gradual bond. One where they discover more about each other, particularly Mary about Solomon, and begin to open up, even if not always intentionally. There’s enough present within the narrative to keep things flowing well enough. This is a quiet drama. One of character detail and elements instead of spectacle. The key themes and details are those based around connections between people of different backgrounds, and the common ground that they share, leading to understanding and connection.
You do at times feel yourself simply watching the characters engaging with their surroundings, and those in the same environment, rather than properly emotionally engaging with them. It’s perhaps part of the effect of what is a very quiet, fairly observant, film. However, when an element of development comes in and the emotional aspects of, and connections between, characters are focused on there’s certainly something engaging that provides enough to make the overall viewing worthwhile.
Amongst the quietness that sets the tone of After Love there’s enough character detail and development within the connections formed that make it a worthwhile watch, brought about especially by Joanna Scanlan’s strong central performance.