Love After Love (2017) ☆☆☆(3/4): Love after death

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“Love After Love” calmly observes how life goes on for its ordinary characters after their sad, painful loss. While it may be a little too dry or somber for you, the movie is engaging on the whole thanks to its intimate moments and the commendable performances from its main cast members, and you will simply go along with its leisurely narrative flow once you get accustomed to it.

The movie opens with a private conversation between a middle-aged woman named Suzanne (Andie MacDowell) and her son Nicholas (Chris O’Dowd). They are casually talking about being happy, and they do look happy and comfortable as we watch them spending time along with other family members including Suzanne’s husband Glenn (Gareth Williams). As Glenn later makes a heartfelt speech, everyone looks at him with love and endearment, but we sense something is not so right, because of his hoarse voice and weak appearance.

The following part shows how his family has gone through a very difficult time due to his worsening health condition. It seems there is nothing they can do except being near him, and there is a poignant moment when Suzanne, Nicholas, and his brother Chris (James Adomian) try to help Glenn in the bathroom. They surely do as much as they can for Glenn, but it is often frustrating and depressing for them to watch his health condition deteriorated day by day, and they are often reminded of his impending death as hearing him struggling to breath everytime.

While Suzanne tries to pull herself together as focusing on her theater work, Nicholas copes with his messy emotional circumstance. Feeling angry and helpless, he wants someone to lean on, but he only lashes out at his ex-wife Rebecca (Juliet Rylance) even though she kindly comes to support him and Suzanne, and we see him subsequently having a quick sex outside with his girlfriend Emilie (Dree Hemingway).

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In the end, there comes an inevitable moment Suzanne and her family have prepared themselves for, and the movie handles this sad moment with somber sensitivity without resorting to cheap melodrama. Once the funeral is over, daily life gradually resumes for everyone, and the movie slowly lets us gather some changes in their life. While remaining to be a colleague to his ex-wife in the same publishing company, Nicholas eventually becomes engaged to Emilie, and we get a small hilarious moment when Chris, who is evidently envious while also quite drunk, embarrasses himself in front of others during Nicholas and Emilie’s engagement party.

Meanwhile, Suzanne tries to move onto the next stage of her life, but, of course, that is not so easy for her. She dates with one of her co-workers and then sleeps with him later, but she does not feel like going further with him, and she continues to feel sad and lonely as often being reminded of the void left by her dead husband. At one point, she cannot help but a bit too emotional in front of her co-workers, and that surely perplexes her co-workers, but she soon regains her composure anyway.

Eventually, she comes to find comfort and stability from a middle-aged guy named Michael (Matt Salinger). As they spend time together, something mutual is clearly felt between them, and Suzanne later holds the birthday party for him at her house, but Nicholas is rather sour and sullen in contrast to everyone else in the party. As his relationship with Emilie is going nowhere recently, he finds himself attracted again to Rebecca, but she does not want to get emotionally involved with him again, and he only comes to show more of his pettiness and selfishness. While watching his mother being happy with Michael, Nicholas becomes pettier than before, and that eventually leads to a tense, awkward moment between him and others in the party.

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Steadily maintaining its calm attitude, the movie observes its story and characters with empathy and understanding, and director/writer Russell Harbaugh did a good job of drawing believable performances from his main cast members. While Chris O’Dowd, who drew my attention for the first time via his comic performance in “Bridesmaids” (2011) but then showed his more serious side through his excellent supporting turn in “Calvary” (2014), is effective as a self-centered guy with emotional issues, James Adomian has his own moment as his character tries to ventilate his feelings on the stage later in the story, and the other performers in the film including Juliet Rylance (yes, she is the stepdaughter of Mark Rylance), Dree Hemingway, Gareth Williams, Francesca Faridany, and Matt Salinger are also fine in their respective supporting roles.

And there is Andie MacDowell, whose effortless performance in the film shows us that she has lost none of her talent and presence although she has recently been less prominent compared to when she impressed us with her wonderful performances in various films such as “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” (1989) and “Groundhog Day” (1993). Even her character does not say much, MacDowell ably conveys to us the thoughts and feelings behind her character’s phlegmatic appearance, and the result is definitely one of the best performances in her career.

Although I felt impatient from time to time during viewing, I was touched by what was modestly presented in “Love After Love”, and I recommend it mainly for its thoughtful storytelling and entertaining performances. It may not be something you must watch, but I assure you that you will appreciate its considerable intimacy and sensitivity, and you will probably have a good time with it in the end.

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