Writer-director Bart Freundlich’s adaptation of Susanne Bier’s 2006 Oscar-nominated film After the Wedding (it was Denmark’s foreign language submission for the 2007 Oscars) takes the framework of the original with a different twist. Instead of two male protagonists, Freundlich pairs two of the finest actresses working today, giving them some great material to work with.
As After the Wedding opens, there’s a tranquility that feels almost too calm for anyone’s good. Isabel (Michelle Williams) is leading a group of young kids in meditation but that peaceful moment doesn’t wash over you as it should. Early on, it’s easy to tell there is much more happening in the film.
“…Isabel runs an orphanage in India, which appears to be the center of her entire life.”
We find out Isabel runs an orphanage in India, which appears to be the center of her entire life. She treats every child as if they were her own, caring for them with natural maternal instincts. She receives word a benefactor is interested in investing money in the orphanage and would like to meet with Isabel. The only thing is, she has to go to New York City and the thought of being away from the children for an extended period of time is hard for Isabel.
She finds out $2 million is on the table, and it would be in the children’s best interest if she takes the meeting, so she heads to New York to meet with Theresa (Julianne Moore), who is in the midst of planning her daughter’s wedding while trying to run her company. Isabel and Theresa couldn’t be more different or part of such opposite worlds; just spending time with her in New York makes Isabel feel like a stranger in a strange land.
“…a showcase for Williams and Moore to sink into the emotional weight of the characters.”
Isabel hopes to be back to India quickly, but Theresa wants more time to think about her offer and why she should invest in the orphanage. She invites Isabel to her daughter’s wedding, and she reluctantly accepts because she would do anything for the children. When Isabel is introduced to Theresa’s husband Oscar (Billy Crudup), After the Wedding takes some narrative turns, allowing the characters to evolve and flesh out more than when we first meet them.
Freundlich’s approach to the film is respectful to the original but begs the question of why translate this particular film for a more mainstream audience. He does so deftly but After the Wedding trods in some familiar melodramatic territories, which may not have the same impact as the original.
Regardless, After the Wedding is a showcase for Williams and Moore to sink into the emotional weight of the characters. Would you ever need more than that?
After The Wedding screened at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.