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October 2010

Afterwards

cast: John Malkovich, Romain Duris, Evangeline Lilly, Sara Waisglass, and Recce Thompson

director: Gilles Bourdos

104 minutes (15) 2008
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Optimum DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
review by James A. Stewart

Afterwards

When a film's opening scene shows a young boy being killed, run over by a speeding car, whilst trying to raise the alarm for his sister who has fallen through a rickety pier in a lily-pad laden lake, you just know that it is not going to be an easy ride. It's going to be sad and morbid in equal measure.

Afterwards is the story of Nathan, father of said deceased boy, who has since immersed himself in his role as a successful and heartless lawyer (is there any other kind?) in New York. Nathan is visited by the mysterious Dr Kay, a 'messenger' who can foresee the imminent and unexpected death of people and whom attempts to get these people back with their loved ones - for everyone's sake.

Dr Kay's motives for contacting Nathan are linked to the latter's loss, and the fact that there is a role for Nathan in the world of the messenger. But will the lawyer live or die? This is the question that the viewer is asked to contemplate throughout. Any revelation on my part will spoil the ending.

The film is sometimes ponderous in its pace, but this works apart from a few frustratingly elongated scenes. Malkovich as Dr Kay is his usual freaky self, stretching every syllable to breaking point before spinning into angry mode in order to emphasis his point or reveal his frustration. He is, of course, the star of the show, Nathan is played by the French actor Romain Duris, who is effective in an understated way.

In many ways Afterwards almost suffocates itself with its own cleverness. It is a film about love, loss, happiness and despair. The lack of a clear motive for the film means that the message that is being conveyed can be lost and leave the viewer floundering in a sea of dissatisfaction, but stick with it as the ending allows the clarity needed to get the satisfaction from the film, which in all honesty could have been 10-15 minutes shorter.

There are a few pretty graphic deaths in the film, the young boy's car accident would make a government information video maker proud and the on-platform suicide in an NYC metro station is pretty convincing. The dialogue is executed well but the use of French with subtitles at some points adds nothing to the film except to try vainly to turn the arty levels up a notch.

Afterwards is worth watching, it is beautifully well shot, giving the best and worst of New York a going over. It has an excellent cast and first-rate soundtrack that fits in well with the message being suggested. It has its problems, as alluded to here, but it is an enjoyable film as piece of production as well as having a quite interesting premise and story.

DVD extras are pretty bland with a trailer only.



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