Directed by Joachim Lafosse
Country: France / Belgium
Joachim Lafosse is a Belgian auteur with a propensity to describe complex family affairs with objective accuracy and sharp vision. Even though, “After Love”, his new dramatic creation starring Bérénice Bejo and Cédric Kahn, is a timid follow-up of the revered “Our Children”, released five years ago.
Fanny Burdino, Thomas Van Zuylen, Mazarine Pingeot, and Lafosse himself, are credited as writers, and the story was specified to extract the maximum acting skills from the pair of leading actors.
Bejo is Marie, the only daughter of a wealthy couple who bought her the beautiful house she’s living in. Khan plays her husband, Boris, an indebted handyman who seems more interested in playing the victim than finding a proper job. Two beautiful daughters are a result from their love, which gradually came to an end after a 15-year marriage. Even in the verge of splitting up, Boris has an agreement with Marie that consists in looking after the girls every Wednesday nights. Regardless the rules imposed by his soon-to-be ex-wife, Boris keeps breaking them, insisting in marking his presence at all times. He even overstays and sleeps at the house, sometimes acting as if everything was fine. Well, it’s not fine, because Marie admits she doesn’t love him anymore and all the moves he attempts only make her mad.
The saturated relationship causes a relentless friction that translates into many arguments where aggressive voices and behaviors scare the poor little girls out. This scenario is a real torment for everyone - parents, kids, and even friends who, when invited, feel overwhelmed with Boris’ acerbic posture. It’s even painful for us, viewers. Afterward, in order to release the accumulated tension, Lafosse resorts to the melancholic music of Chopin through a rendition of “Piano Sonata Nº3” by Artur Rubenstein.
Bearably tolerating each other, Marie and Boris, still have their doubts, especially during happy moments spent with the kids or when the desire of their bodies surpass the porous petrifaction of their hearts.
The reason why they put themselves in this situation is purely financial. Marie wants to sell the house for a fair price and grant one-third to Boris, but he refuses, claiming 50% to cover his effort and time put on reparations of the property.
Lafosse examines this burdensome relationship with focal sharpness and emotional bait, however, the constant pace in conjunction with the cyclic relapse of the predicaments become slightly fastidious as the time advances. After playing their love/hate game for some time, the couple finally settles things out with dull expressions on their faces. There is hardly any aspect to be learned from this plausible exercise, except perhaps that marriage can gradually transfigure and take you from heaven to hell.