‘After Love’ Review: The Other Woman
In this intelligent melodrama by the director Aleem Khan, a British woman discovers her husband has been leading a double life.
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By Beatrice Loayza
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“After Love,” the first feature by the director Aleem Khan, envisions the act of mourning as an existential crisis, a passage through the eye of a storm. In the opening scene, the camera remains still, the frame boxy and rigid, as Mary (Joanna Scanlon), a 60-something white woman who had long ago converted to Islam, finds her husband, Ahmed, dead.
For much of the first half of this intelligent melodrama, Mary remains silent, pensive. She clutches her grief close to her chest, even when — or especially because — she finds out her beloved, an English-Channel ferry captain, had been leading a double life.
When she takes the bus from Dover to Calais to confront the other woman, she is mistaken for the new cleaning lady and runs with it, quietly taking the opportunity to investigate.
At first, Genevieve (Nathalie Richard) appears to be a stereotypical mistress. A lithe Frenchwoman, she’s the physical opposite of the portly Mary, and perhaps annoyingly modern, too, in Mary’s traditionalist eyes. Then Solomon (Talid Ariss) appears, the angsty son of Genevieve and Ahmed, and a closeted gay teenager wounded by his father’s recurring absences. Childless Mary is wracked by envy and heartache even as she finds in this other home a fraught way of assuaging her loss, extending Ahmed’s life by inserting herself into the half he kept secret, touching his things, admiring his offspring. She imagines what he lacked here that always brought him back to her.
Mary also withholds her true identity while forging intimacies with Genevieve and Solomon, a tense — if overused — dynamic that promises a dramatic reveal made all the more stinging by the solemn mood and the restrained emotion of Scanlon’s minimalistic performance.
The film’s structure may be conventional, and yet its story is unusually rich, and uninterested in easy answers as to why people hurt the ones they love. Consider “After Love” a rarity; these days, a good adult drama — the kind whose power is premised on the intricacies and deceptions that shape our everyday relationships — is hard to come by.
Not rated. In English, French and Urdu, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 29 minutes. In theaters.
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