PIFF 2021: Cream – Review

Release Date – TBC, Cert – N/A, Run-time – 1 hour 29 minutes, Director – Nóra Lakos

A bakery owner (Vica Kerekes) assembles a fake family (László Mátray, Erik Gyarmati) in the hope of winning a cash prize that could save her business.

“From now on I only care about my pastry shop” defiantly claims Dora (Vica Kerekes), a woman in her mid-30s who’s life is dedicated to the survival of her bakery. It’s a place themed around classic Hollywood movie romances, and Kevin Costner. If you buy one cake you have to buy the other, Robert Redford must go with Barbra Streisand in The Way We Were. After a break-up with her boyfriend David (Miklós Bányai) her shop ‘Hab’ (Cream) becomes the only important thing in her life that she’ll do anything to save, especially as it faces risk of closure. This includes creating a new, fictional life for herself with a fake family in the hope of winning a cash prize that could save her livelihood by coming across as the most closely bonded.

However, even a false family can be highly dysfunctional. Dora recruits nearby dentist and part-time DJ Marci (László Mátray), more of an acquaintance who she doesn’t overly know a lot about but is the best she can find at such short notice. However the competition is for family businesses and so the pair need to find a temporary child. Cue precocious wannabe child actor Lacika (Erik Gyarmati), who throughout is concerned about who his character is meant to be, Tommy Wiseau’s Disaster Artist advice of “don’t be Brando today” was made for this kid. In a film of engaging comedic performances he manages to stand out with some brilliantly funny delivery. While one narrative element of his relationship with an older girl from another family in the competition does start off as somewhat uncomfortable director and co-writer (with Fruzsina Frekete and Yvonne Kerékgyártó) Nóra Lakos manages to even things out to lower such a feeling as the narrative progresses.

Competing in the same event are a number of equally dysfunctional, although real, families. Each with their own personal secrets, quirks and attitudes. Their interactions within their own circles, and with the people they find themselves residing near and with for the duration of the competition make for plenty of humour. The performances throughout are undeniably good and bring about a number of the laughs and bring to life the screenplay. As already established Dora is a fan of classic Hollywood rom-coms and dramas, and in this film she certainly seems to be living a rom-com narrative, even finding herself playing the lead. Yet, Cream never manages to feel overstuffed with clichés and conventions. It carries itself along and thanks to the enjoyable characters and humour that’s injected into their interactions and relationships there’s plenty to like.

Kerekes makes for a strong lead who finely demonstrates the various elements of guilt and determination that the central figure of the film feels. Both in comedic and lightly dramatic senses. Her façade is thrown into disarray and something in need of carefully constructed planning and backstory when her ex attends the same event with his wife, his reason for leaving Dora was that he was engaged throughout their relationship. It’s a line of standard happenings and yet it never quite feels that way within Lakos’ film. It’s an enjoyable, entertaining and often funny line that brings the viewer in with brightness, both in terms of visuals and characters. It’s an engaging rom-com in itself, potentially aware of its conventions, but rarely hindered by them. Instead indulging in its figures and their equally dysfunctional relationships for an effectively funny rom-com.

There’s plenty to enjoy within the various dysfunctional relationships that make up Cream’s narrative, and the performances that help bring about the humour amongst the possibly aware rom-com conventions.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

PIFF 2021: Invisible Love – Review

Release Date – TBC, Cert – N/A, Run-time – 1 hour 50 minutes, Director – Xiang Guo

Jailed for murder Nguyen Thi Hoa (Hoang Thi Bich Phuong) finds herself reflecting on the relationships and affairs that have plagued her life.

Thrown into a dark, cold, isolated jail cell, shackled and bleeding Nguyen Thi Hoa (Hoang Thi Bich Phuong) finds the most painful part of her imprisonment is perhaps the memories that come flooding back to her. Memories of a life filled with complicated relationships and affairs. The words “I just want to live a quiet and simple life” are claimed at one point over the film’s mostly flashback narrative. However, her life in 1930’s French Indochina is anything but, especially because of all the people who jump in and out of it in its various stages of luxury and poverty. Safety and chaos.

Perhaps one of the most significant relationships in the film is that with American physician James Marquis (Kazy Tauginas). As army complications come into play, in regards to more than one relationship, and Thi Hoa learns more about the world around her the many people she comes across begin to experience tension. It’s perhaps this relationship that begins much of the worry and complications within the central figure’s life, with emotional consequences rapidly falling onto her. The film certainly works best when focusing just on Phuong’s character, particularly when depicted frightened, alone and cowering in her cell. She’s scared of both her situation and the hundreds of thoughts that are racing through her mind, seemingly only some of which the audience are allowed into in a lengthy narrative. There are certainly some flashbacks and characters that have a bigger impact than others, the English language performances are certainly not best, including interactions with the owner and employees of a materials shop in the more involving second half of the film.

With each relationship we see Thi Hoa almost become someone else each time, however she remains the continuously hurt and scarred figure who we continue to refer back to torturing herself in prison, for the murder of her husband. It is, again, such elements that work the best, the more personal moments for the protagonist as she searches for a calm life, only ending up causing more chaos and heartbreak within the one she’s currently living. One that is occasionally drawn-out and slow in pace, the film does sometimes feel somewhat lengthy as relationships are starting to develop and character interactions are being worked out. However, there’s always the more personal beats to refer back to that help to lift things back up and remind us of the mixture that is being, or has been, created for the central figure. It just sometimes takes some time to get to this reminder within the sprawling arrangement of relationships we see acted out throughout the film.

The relationships throughout Invisible Love can sometimes feel lengthy and sprawling, however it’s the personal details of the central character that manage to keep you somewhat involved, particularly within the more focused second half.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

PIFF 2021: Kiss The Ground – Review

Release Date – 22nd September 2020, Cert – PG, Run-time – 1 hour 25 minutes, Directors – Joshua Tickell, Rebecca Harrell Tickell

Documentary looking into how agriculture and the Earth’s soil can help combat climate change.

Aside from planting more trees and expanding home-grown produce Kiss The Ground turns and takes a look at how humanity can work in “cooperation with nature” to reverse the effects of climate change, or at least combat them. Throughout we meet a number of farmers, activists, politicians and even some celebrities – David and Patricia Arquette make a brief appearance, and Woody Harrelson narrates; even Roasrio Dawson gets an odd interviewer role, which feels somewhat out of place, at the end of the film – who are all pushing the idea that perhaps the way we treat soil could be improved for the both the better of produce and the planet as a whole. Getting across their messages in speeches, meetings, interviews and, of course, the occasional diagram, the viewer followers a handful of figures as they explain to others, and the viewer, the urgency of their cause and how the more people who help out the better the chances are for the future.

It does feel, especially when looking at a handful of the speeches and gatherings, that the film knows its target audience. As the discussion of regenerative agriculture increases it feels as if it’s speaking more to an audience with farming experience than the more casual viewer, items and examples shown and demonstrated in front of fellow members of the industry. The episodic nature of ‘this is what we’ve done, this is what we can do/ are going to do’ does also create a slight shift in engagement for the viewer, slightly escaping from the film in the second half as it doesn’t quite become repetitive but appears to further ground itself in a presumed target audience. However, there is still content there for those outside of the farming content. A look into waste reduction in San Francisco feels slightly closer to home and perhaps has a better degree of connection for some members of the audience.

There’s certainly passion on display and that helps keep those outside of the industry involved in the film, with it’s message that says “we want to mentor and inspire people”. This particularly comes across in the words of speaker and activist Roy Archuleta – a Conservation Agronomist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service – who perhaps makes one of the biggest impacts of the short 85 minute course of the film. We spend a fair deal of time with him at the start, and even at the end, as he speaks passionately about the cause that he has dedicated himself to, in the hope of changing lives and the world for the better. It’s points such as this that help to carry those outside of the farming industry through the elements that seem to lean more towards such people as a target audience, which is no bad thing, especially when taking into consideration a large proportion of the subject matter. However, there is still content outside of soil that manages to keep the interest and engagement of more casual viewers to show a communal fight against climate change that film, and it’s participants, attempt to encourage.

Kiss The Ground certainly knows it’s target audience, which is no bad thing. There’s still content there for more casual viewers, and those outside the farming industry, enough to keep them engaged and interested throughout the slightly episodic course.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

LFF 2020: New Order – Review

Release Date – 25th June 2021, Cert – TBC, Run-time – 1 hour 28 minutes, Director – Michel Franco

A busy high-class wedding is interrupted and thrown into chaos when the lower classes stage a violent revolution.

Writer-director Michel Franco’s New Order’s view of revolution is dark. Dark and nihilistic. It’s a bleak view of streets rife with violence, bloody attacks. All starting from nowhere. We start with a peaceful high-class wedding. People are mingling, preparing for the main event and ready to witness perfect union. However, after a former employee comes to his ex-employer’s home asking for help to pay for his wife’s medical bills the chaos soon starts, especially as he’s hastily given little cash seemingly just to get rid of him from the premises. The house becomes ever busier as rioters pour in, lower classes staging a revolution with no mercy.

This is all early in the piece and it quickly spins into chaotic violence and disorder. Sometimes aiming for an emotional impact and response, however a number of images are simply too uncomfortable and disengaging to give a proper response to. In the end it becomes too much and you find yourself with little engagement with the film. It’s hard to connect with a number of the characters, especially due to the fact that with so much going on in the short 88 minute run-time not everyone gets a lot of screen-time as the film jumps back and forth between various locations, ideas and characters. Add to that the feeling of underdeveloped figures, the main differences being those that form the basis of the revolution, class. Franco doesn’t appear to glorify the violence and parade it in front of the viewer, it simply feels too nihilistic to engage with and form a proper connection with the film or the characters who appear throughout it.

After various street attacks and riots, filling the screen with green smoke, water and more – the sign of this particular revolution, mixed in with the blood-stained shirts and faces of both rioters and those captured and trying to escape – it feels that by the end not much else has happened. The focus is truly on the disorder being created to form the titular new order. The characters are simply vessels for us to follow so we can see different locations where this is happening, not so much people trying to get back to each other who we can connect with on an emotional level and feel a deeper impact of the film’s themes and events. You simply find yourself lost, not inside, outside the film, watching the events unfold with no properly response apart from that to the horror that unfolds as the ever-increasing violence ensues.

The biggest issue with New Order is it’s bleak outlook and continual dark violence. Pushing away the viewer and stopping any connection being formed with it and it’s underdeveloped characters.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

LFF 2020: African Apocalypse – Review

Release Date – TBC, Cert – N/A, Run-time – 1 hour 28 minutes, Director – Rob Lemkin

Student Femi Nylander travels to Niger to discover both his roots and those of French colonialist Captain Paul Voulet, whose acts are still having effect on modern generations.

One of the most engaging things about African Apocalypse is the fact that it comes from a place of genuine fascination. We follow student and activist Femi Nylander as he travels to Niger to not only learn more about French colonialist Captain Paul Voulet but gradually about himself and his heritage. Nylander is initially inspired by Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness and its links to the colonisation of Africa, which he begins to investigate the real-life impacts of. It’s easy to be absorbed into his personal interest and intrigue in the situation, as he learns first-hand and pieces together the multi-generational effects of Voulet’s atrocious actions.

Throughout we’re not relieving someone else’s story, we’re trying to figure out what happened and why the story is the way it is. Not only do we witness the modern day effects on multiple areas and villages, those that remained after Voulet led attacks that brought many down completely, but we also experience some of the shocking impacts. Often through archive material such as pictures, recordings and first-hand details, there’s a good blend with the modern day images and investigation. Even with the occasional comparison and look back into Heart Of Darkness – of course the initial starting point for the delve that develops throughout the piece.

There’s a fair deal to see, witness and piece together over the short, just under 90 minutes, run-time of the film. Yet, things are held together well and make for an engaging course for the film. Helped by Rob Lemkin’s sometimes simplistic direction, keeping the focus on Nylander and his journey of personal exploration into both himself and his background. There’s something compelling and sober about it, and yet it allows for the emotional force of the past to have a truly effective hit.

“You can only be free for a bright future if you are free from the past” echoes throughout the film as there are increasingly emotional and horrible images, revelations and unearthings that all tail towards a conclusion that we feel the only thing we can do is possibly prepare for the worst. However, we wait with bated breath, suspense and uncertainty as to how things will pan out, if there’s anywhere they can pan out to, and when Femi will end up on his exploration into the present shockwaves of colonialist atrocities in Africa of the 1890s. It’s an engaging, insightful and most of all personally passionate and invested documentary that truly stirs up power and feelings throughout its investigative course that those involved with are effectively fascinated in.

African Apocalypse’s biggest push is from the fact that those involved are so passionately invested in the path that they are following as they piece together a shocking and emotional story that truly packs a punch with the effects that it continues to have.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Mortal Kombat – Review

Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 50 minutes, Director – Simon McQuoid

MMA fighter Cole (Lewis Tan) finds himself recruited to take part in the deadly Mortal Kombat tournament, with the aim of stopping evil Outworld forces from taking over the Earthrealm.

Simon McQuoid makes clear from the opening scene of this modern take on the classic Mortal Kombat video game series that this is not in the same vein as the cheesy, brightly-coloured films of the 90’s. Both in terms of tone and hopeful quality, while Paul W.S. Anderson’s 1995 adaptation does have it’s fans the ’97 sequel Annihilation is undeniably regarded as a dreadful video game adaptation. It’s weird to think that this is McQuoid’s feature debut. He’s spent much of his career directing grand scale adverts for major brands, with some video game-involved experience. He has an eye for worlds and uses that to immerse the viewer into those that make up the divides and action within this adaptation of the successful arcade action series. Perhaps the best video game adaptations are those that explore and expand the world’s that they’re set in – I’ll continue to defend Duncan Jones’ Warcraft! McQuoid and the rest of the film’s crew do just this and make for a number of engaging battles throughout.

The Mortal Kombat tournament is a series of death-matches that protagonist Cole (Lewis Tan) finds himself recruited and training for. Alongside Sonya (Jessica McNamee) and Jax (Mehcad Brooks) who have been investigating the competition, Cole discovers that other participants of the generational fights from the Outworld are planning on taking over the Earthrealm before the next event. Joining the trio is cocky fighter Kano (Josh Lawson). Kano is undeniably the source of the continuing R-rated content when the crimson bloodshed isn’t lining the film. His mass dropping of the f-bomb does begin to often feel as if it’s just written in the remind the viewer that this is an R-rated feature and so it will have some more graphic violence soon. It’s safe to say that as a character, especially with his wisecracks amounting to mostly failed attempts at comic relief, isn’t the easiest to get on with throughout the film.

Yet, the film knows that we’re here for the action. Fights that involve fire and ice throwing, teleporting beings and plenty of hand-to-hand combat. There’s a video game sensibility to some of these moments, particularly in the second half of the film as they become the main focus with most characters having interacted in some way by now. A loose plot is somewhat formed around, or building up to, fight scenes. While the camera does sometimes cut back and forth before and after punches, kicks, stabs, etc and again to show the impact; giving a chaotic unfocused feeling that does make some of the action a bit difficult to follow at times, there’s still plenty to enjoy. There is still some swift, effective action, a fair deal of fatalities certainly live up to the film’s R rating aims (a solid 15 certificate here in the UK).

It’s enjoyable and makes for an engaging watch, and, again, a handful of shots have that video game-like feel to them. This could likely work well for those more aware of the games. And in this vein there are plenty of names, characters and details that are sure to please fans of the series, while not pushing away the casual viewers, unaware of the names and faces in the Mortal Kombat universe. This may not be a flawless victory, but it’s certainly not a fatality.

There’s a definite line of entertainment to be had here for both fans of the games and those who know very little, if not nothing, about them, especially in regards to the action and fights in the second half. Each with their own elements that slightly add to the world-building feel of the earlier scenes and never allowing (most of) its central characters, in a film that is sometimes quite busy with multiple figures popping up here and there; at least making clear who’s good and bad, to feel degraded or silly. This take on Mortal Kombat is far from the tackier family friendly fare of the mid-late-90s and it’s all the better for it.

Mortal Kombat fortunately uses it’s worlds, rather than the fairly loose plot, as a device to ease the viewer in to the violent bloodshed that makes up the, sometimes too chaotic, video-game-like action that boosts the entertainment factor of the piece, by the end making for an enjoyable video game adaptation.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

LFF 2020: Delia Derbyshire: The Myths And Legendary Tapes – Review

Release Date – TBC, Cert – N/A, Run-time – 1 hour 38 minutes, Director – Caroline Catz

Docudrama blending discovered tapes and recreations of influential, experimental sound designer and musician Delia Derbyshire (Caroline Catz) as she works in the BBC basement.

Delia Derbyshire is perhaps best known for creating the iconic theme to Doctor Who. However, the aim of Caroline Catz’s docudrama on Derbyshire is to highlight her experimental, forward-thinking nature as a sound designed and musician. Working her way up through BBC rankings, although seemingly staying stuck in the cramped basement with all the sound equipment, there’s plenty to delve into when it comes to her creations. The more documentary leanings of the piece look into just this, using discovered tapes, recordings and diaries of the titular subject to get a picture of her creativity and innovative musical style. Meanwhile, the dramatised elements look more into Derbyshire’s personal life, trying to be heard and facing competition within a mid-20th Century BBC.

As the film progresses it certainly seems to focus more on the reimagined side of Derbyshire’s life (Derbyshire played by writer-director Catz, who appears to have truly put herself into the mindset of the figure her piece focuses on). While starting off as engaging and interesting, particularly capturing the slight imagination of the viewer when paired with the documentary-based moments, the more the drama comes into the play the more it begins to feel like a one-off BBC drama. This is no bad thing, it still works and keeps the viewer engaged. However, as it progresses the feeling arises that it could possibly be better digested in 30 minute chunks, rather than as a complete 98 minute film.

You wish for more of the experimental elements to play a bigger part, to become more of the focus – such moments truly feel reflective of the image of Derbyshire that the film creates. To start with there’s a shared tone and feeling that gets her mindset across to the viewer and adds something to the film, giving it a further layer of detail and engagement for those watching. However, as the film fades away into the drama it appears to lose what it was beforehand and becomes slightly more generic, losing the attention of the viewer along with it. A shame for something that starts out, much like Derbyshire herself, as something rather experimental, made more engaging and interesting because of the personal dash that runs throughout it.

This look into the work of Delia Derbyshire starts off as a seemingly personal, experimental look to match her music. However, it seems to lose something as it delves further into it’s gradually less-effective dramatic elements.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

LFF 2020: The Salt In Our Waters – Review

Release Date – TBC, Cert – N/A, Run-time – 1 hour 46 minutes, Director – Rezwan Shahriar Sumit

A young artist (Titas Zia) finds a small fishing village turning against him, his creations and most of all his modern-world views and knowledge.

The picturesque sights, sounds and colours of the Bangladeshi fishing village that young artist Rudro (Titas Zia) arrives in at the beginning of writer-director Rezwan Shahriar Sumit’s debut feature initially appear to be like those on an idealistic travel brochure. However, as he acquaints himself with the locals the response is much colder than the environment he finds himself having visited for inspiration. The village, far different to his home city, is already experiencing problems when it comes to the fish that they catch; the annual monsoon has failed to arrive, something which is blamed on Rudro’s presence, meaning that there’s little intake.

Rudro particularly finds himself battling with the iron-fisted Chairman (Fazlur Rahman Babu). He believes that the stranger’s sculptures and mannequins are false gods that have curse the small, isolated community, although Rudro claims that this is an effect of unheard of climate change. Soon rumours are spread and Zia’s protagonist becomes the target of fear, uncertainty and misconceptions amongst the people who are guided by the Chairman. After all, this man has arrived and instantly begun to corrupt the children with art lessons and other non-fishing related frivolities. From these clashes arrives heated tension between the forces, felt in their exchanges, particularly from Babu’s strong performance of rage.

The Chairman’s situation is made worse when it turns out that his daughter, Tuni (Tasnova Tamanna), has been growing closer to what he perceives to be a disturber of the peace and the community’s order and obedience. It simply adds to the fire of the film’s events, enough to keep you engaged and interested within the narrative, which does mostly lean towards Rudro’s feuds with, and protests against the views of, the Chairman. There’s interest in how things are going to pan out and good performances from the whole cast allow for further engagement within the piece. During some exchanges you find yourself caught in the crossfire, watching unsure as to who might come out worse from it. Such battles between young and old, city-life and isolation, familiarity and outside ideas make for a strong debut from Rezwan Shahriar Sumit that engages with the heated exchanges and challenges between characters well and brings the viewer in well-enough for the experience.

The Salt In Our Waters is an interesting depiction of two different societal beliefs and ideals, there’s tension in the two central performances as they feud throughout Rezwan Shahriar Sumit’s debut feature.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

LFF 2020: Limbo – Review

Release Date – 30th July 2021, Cert – TBC, Run-time – 1 hour 43 minutes, Director – Ben Sharrock

A group of asylum seekers try to make their way in a remote area of Scotland, unsure as to whether they will be granted asylum or not, or what is happening to their families back home.

Writer-director Ben Sharrock reveals an admirable talent for creating comedy within tragedy and uncertainty. He follows a group of asylum seekers, unsettled, waiting for asylum approval, in a remote part of Scotland. Particularly we see the world through the eyes of Omar (Amir El-Masry), trying to make his way as a musician while his parents are in Istanbul and his brother potentially still in Syria. Living in a cramped, undecorated house with fellow asylum seekers worried that they won’t be allowed to live in the UK. Reflecting their home, and their reluctance to properly settle, the village they’re placed into is almost empty. Empty of life, decoration, entertainment or proper help, like a dilapidated off-the-map Royston Vasey. Even the local shop – with one, monotone member of staff reminding people to “please refrain from urinating in the freezer aisle” – seems empty of produce, specifically the spices that Omar is looking for.

A local centre holds meetings for all the asylum seekers in the area. Each one scared, worried and fearing about their future. Not helped by the cringe-inducing leaders of the group Helga (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and, particularly, Boris (Kenneth Collard). Both of whom are trying to teach the group the basics of living in the UK, being emotionally open and practicing job interview techniques. However, when everyone has been in the titular limbo for so long the energy vanishes from the room. They sit huddled together in the echoing room, being subjected to citizenship classes, and the slightly more bearable plastic chairs. In true darkly tragic comedy one member of the group admits “I used to be happy before I came here. I used to cry myself to sleep every night, but now I don’t have any tears left”. It’s a line that would fit right in with an emotional drama on the same subject, but induces tears of laughter, with a layered impact, that like many other jokes still have you chuckling minutes later.

On a number of occasions the slightly absurd, yet all too real, humour does have a slight air of a Taika Waititi film about it. Finding humour in loneliness and the isolation of characters, outsiders from the rest of the world, trying to find their place. There’s a bond formed with Omar and his fellow asylum seekers, not just because of the laughs that the actors, and screenplay, help to produce, but because of the heart and understanding that the film emits and allows the viewer to connect with. Amongst all of this there’s plenty of laugh-out-loud tear-inducing moments. Admittedly such happenings somewhat vanish in the second half of the film as the drama takes centre stage. This works well and makes for an engaging story thanks to the characters, and makes a difference from the dips in and out in the first half of the film, but it feels as if the humour has almost been abandoned. You do slightly wish you could see more mishaps with a stolen chicken in the household, or at least a bit more lightness for balance within this generally different tone.

However, even throughout the more present drama there’s still plenty of heart and warmth towards the characters. Consideration towards their situation and an emotional understanding with their thoughts and feelings. It comes through in layered performances that match a screenplay that has plenty of comedy which also doubles as tragic emotion of people lost within a spiralling system of uncertainty and fear. There are plenty of different things that can be taken away from Limbo, all thanks to Ben Sharrock’s careful exercising of his themes and ideas, alongside thoughtfulness for his characters and the situation that they find themselves in, in the middle of nowhere. It’s a fine subversion of tragedy into comedy, and there’s plenty of laughs to be found within Limbo, while not forgetting the fear and worry that runs through the people facing the lengthy asylum system.

Hilariously turning tragedy into comedy Limbo never forgets it’s heart and understanding of its characters, the humour may drop in the second half, but the drama is certainly still effective and provides more to the layered meanings and impacts of many lines of dialogue beforehand.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

LFF 2020: After Love – Review

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.

Rating: 3 out of 5.