After Love (2021) Review
In the outline, After Love has all the elements of a Channel 5 soap: mixed relationships, withholding secrets shocking revelations, and even a death within the first five minutes. In debuting director Aleem Khan's hands it's a sensitive often subtle, but often not — glimpse at bereavement, intimate lives and cultural divisions that are made real by an incredible performance by Joanna Scanlan working at the highest level of her talents.
Scanlan plays Mary/Fahima, an British Muslim convert, happily married to Ahmed (Nasser Memarzia). In the pre-credit sequence, Khan effectively sketched a happy wedding in a microcosm of Mary making a cup tea, making dinner and smiling as her husband isn't able to hit the high notes of the Bollywood song. The family scene is broken by Mary discovering Ahmed deceased in the chair The shock is amplified by the sound that erupts into silence. Following his funeral Mary explores his things and discovers that, thanks to an French woman's identification document and several texts from a person whose name is "G," that her husband was living an illicit life. Instead of staying hidden, she heads to Calais and is greeted at the doorstep of the lover of her husband, Genevieve (Nathalie Richard).
A nuanced portrayal of loss.
The next chapter can be described as typical of Khan's wild but sane narrative. In a way, he avoids the obvious slanging match, Mary, by sheer the fact that she is wearing a veil, gets mistaken to Genevieve as her maid instead of confessing to her mistake then, the latter begins to work to help her feel closer to Ahmed and get an understanding about the lady with whom she lived his life. In addition to being an account of an untruthful female, Khan also plays with notions of cultural assimilation in silent (none of Mary's relatives attends Ahmed's funeral, to show support) and in other intriguing ways. One of them is a stunning photo of Mary wearing her Muslim dress atop the crumbling white rock of Dover (a symbol of British values) and the flaking chalk face that mirrors her degrading self-image and perfectly conveys the feeling of being trapped in a tangle of two worlds.
Scanlan has put in excellent work on television (Getting On, No Offence) but has never was able to be a star on the screen. She flawlessly portrays a woman who's unimaginable loss has been added to by the realization that the years she was with her husband were fake. She is in strong scenes with Richard who is trying to figure out details about Genevieve and Ahmed's lives However, she's most likely to shine when she's on her own to draw Mary's sorrow. She has practiced the introductions she makes for Genevieve through the mirror, to diving into the ocean and let the waves crash on her, from gazing at her naked reflection as she traced her flab and stretch marks using her finger to crashing on the floor of her bare accommodation room. It's an eloquent representation of loss that's simultaneously difficult to watch and impossible to escape from.