Review by Dan Skip Allen
I can only speak for myself, but I have always wanted another life from the one I have. Sometimes in life, people actually have another life. Whether good or bad, they happen upon it or force it upon existence. In the case of Ahmed, he has created a separate one in France from his main life in England. After Love is the story of what happens after his sudden death.
Mary (Joanna Scanlan) is a seemingly happy housewife who has converted to Muslim to support her Pakistani husband. After his death from a heart attack, she finds messages on his cell phone from another woman. Curious about who this woman is, she travels across the English Channel to confront Genevieve (Nathalie Richard). Instead, she finds that her husband had a son with this other woman Solomon (Talid Ariss). She gets mistaken for a cleaning lady and ends up helping the family move to a new home while keeping her secret of who she is to herself.
The writer/director Aileen Khan has crafted a different kind of story than most people are used to seeing. This story of lost love and found secrets breaks barriers of what most people would see as normal. In this culture, these men have multiple lovers, but in most cultures, they only allow one wife. It was surprising to one of the women but not the other or the son that he had another family out there. He kept his secret very well.
The structure of the film was done pretty well as well. Khan kept the French woman from knowing about the English woman. We, as the audience, knew what was going on but not the mother and her son. It's like something out of a Hitchcockian story: the audience is in on the secret, but the characters aren't. The suspense of when and where all this came crumbling down was inevitable — and that scene was pretty tough to watch.
The acting by the entire cast was very good, but Joanna Scanlan, who is a big name overseas, gives a very reserved, subtle, nuanced performance as this woman who lost her husband unexpectedly and finds out he has a secret family across the English Channel. She eventually breaks down her emotions because what she sees isn't necessarily what she expects from what she finds out about these people.
Khan sets the movie in summer, which shows these areas of England and France that look beautiful. A few scenes overlooking cliffs were exceptional shots. The channel and the various towns were captured to show the differences between the two locations. They are a bit different in some instances. The French town seemed more workman-like, while the English town seemed quieter and quaint: a little English village of Dover. Nonetheless, the film looked beautiful.
After Love shows a different side to human nature. We all have a secret life we don't want others to see. In the case of the film, a secret life is exposed and what is found out isn't necessarily what is expected. Some cultures are just different from others regarding family. Joanna Scanlan, an actress I wasn't familiar with before this movie, gives an excellent performance as this new widower. The story is relatable because this could happen, and probably has, in America. Khan creates a story that anybody can watch and say, "this can happen to a member of my family or me."
After Love hits theaters on January 20.