Online on BFI Player from 15th October 2020 6.30pm until 18th October 2020 6.30pm
“Don’t stand too close to the edge,” says Mary’s (Joanna Scanlan) deceased husband Ahmed (Nasser Memarzia) on his last voicemail, one of the only things Mary has left of him. However, when she discovers that her husband has been living a secret life across the Channel from their Dover home, she finds herself moving closer and closer to this proverbial cliff edge as she searches for answers and closure. Setting off for Calais to confront the woman (Nathalie Richard) with whom her husband has been having an affair, it’s not hatred or resentment that Mary finds, but a new and deepening connection.
The feature debut from writer-director Aleen Khan, After Love is a beautifully directed and tender portrait of two women navigating their own turbulent situations. A premise like this could so easily have slipped into the realms of sappy melodrama, but, thanks to immensely moving and subdued performances from Scanlan and Memarzia, the events depicted carry an emotional weight that grounds Khan’s script and speaks volumes. This is especially true of Scanlan, whose meek portrayal is often heartbreaking as she processes her grief, confusion, and self-doubt.
Every key player – including Ahmed’s son (Talid Ariss) – is wholly fleshed-out with individual issues, each of which folds back into their current predicament. No dialogue is wasted, and each actor ensures that every line, look, and movement performed onscreen is delivered with the most impact.
Of course, none of this would be as effective without Khan’s stunning direction. Amplifying Mary’s unspoken emotional turmoil through strikingly sombre visuals, the filmmaker colours her film with a melancholy silence that allows gives voice to Mary’s internal grief. Often, it’s the quieter moments in After Love that have the most to say.
By the end there’s little learned about Ahmed’s treacherous secret life, nor is there any moral judgement given to the dead man’s actions – but this isn’t the point. As the film reaches its conclusion, Khan has built a tender relationship between two strangers as their lives entwine. A dazzling feature debut, After Love is a gem of British cinema.
After Love will be released nationwide in the spring of 2021.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2020 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for After Love here: