Published Sep 09, 2008Likely to be criticized for its structural fallibility and overly sentimental ruminations on the nature of existence and the anxieties involved with acknowledging mortality, Afterwards is a lyrical and occasionally beautiful visual poem that essentially crumbles under the weight of its ambitions.
A lack of relationship and character development between the leads ultimately keeps the film from having the emotional impact it strives for especially in an epilogue that should have been devastating regardless of the occasional graphic and unexpected violence towards children and well-intentioned players. On the upside, sincerity and a refreshingly "un-hip atmosphere make these flaws substantially more palatable and forgivable.
After dumping a mourning clients lawsuit based on his projected income from the case, Nathan (Romain Duris) is visited by a peculiar physician named Garrett Goodrich (John Malkovich), who proceeds to lecture Nathan on human kindness and hypoglycaemia. Nathan is initially convinced that Garrett is a nut bar but soon changes his tune after the good doctor accurately predicts deaths.
Assuming his own mortality is on the line, Nathan reluctantly follows Garretts advice by visiting an old friend (Pascale Bussieres) who is about to die and rekindling his broken relationship with his ex-wife (Evangeline Lilly), which ended following the SIDS-related death of their infant son. Annihilation anxiety is explored with depth, as Nathan responds with anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance with genuine fears of the unknown and a desire to thwart design.
Allegories and imagery involving swans and cactus flowers are a little trite but not entirely unwelcome given the lyrical nature of the film. They add to the overall aesthetic, which hits a high note whenever Malkovich has a glowing vision of impending death.
This is the kind of film that is best digested with emotion rather than analytics and will likely divide audiences based on personal predilections. (Christal)