Russel Harbaugh’s Love After Love is not your ordinary film. Its narrative style steers away from traditional cinematic storytelling. So much so that it may turn off the average impatient filmgoer. It’s a story about grief and how it affects the average person in profound ways.
We start with the final days of family patriarch Glenn (Gareth Williams), who is on the losing end of a battle with cancer. Surrounded by his wife, Suzanne (Andie MacDowell) and their two sons, Nicholas (Chris O’Dowd) and Chris (James Adomian), Glenn chooses to spend his remaining days in his home with his family.
Following Glenn’s death, the film follows each family member as they cope with death in their own way. Surprisingly, they deal with it just like you or I would, by never speaking about it and going on with our lives as if it never happened.
“…follows each family member as they cope with death in their own way.”
Suzanne begins dating again. Nicholas’ sex addiction bring to an end his long-term relationship with his fiancée Rebecca (Juliet Rylance) in favor of his father’s student, Emilie (Dree Hemingway). Chris moves from one major failure to the next.
Harbaugh films the story of a grieving family as if he were a fly on the wall. He just sits back and records the family’s interactions over the following months. In traditional films, characters suddenly become introspective and profound. Events build to an apex, and everyone learns a lesson in some magical way. Instead, we just follow the events of this family. Like real life, death affects everyone, but we don’t talk about it over and over like a movie obsession. Instead, we just move on with life.
Dialogue is rarely profound and never expository, which is the fascinating part of this film. We just follow the lives of the main characters. We see the choices they make, and their consequences, most notable is the “good son” Nicholas tarnishing his image as he bounces from affair to affair.
“…chose only to show the impactful and emotional moments he was able to capture.”
Harbaugh also dispenses with transitions. Almost as if he took all the footage of the family and chose only to show the impactful and emotional moments he was able to capture. In one scene, Emilie considers leaving Nicholas, and poof, she’s going a second later. It’s an efficient way to tell a story, but it does require the audience to think and work to follow the story, which is not necessarily bad. There are moments though that I was confused about what just happened as well as the existence of the main character that I still ask myself, “Who is she and how is she related to this family?”
You’ll want to watch Love After Love because it’s something different. It throws out traditional narrative storytelling and portrays itself as real. Andie MacDowell is great as usually playing the loving mother with a well-hidden skill of passive aggressiveness. Chris O’Dowd continues to shine as the likable guy, who could snap your neck at any moment. I kind of wish James Adomian’s role was a little bigger, but his stand-up comedy session that transitions to act III is funny and insightful.
Love After Love (2018) Directed by Russell Harbaugh. Written by Russell Harbaugh and Eric Mendelsohn. Starring Chris O’Dowd, Andie MacDowell, James Adomian, Juliet Rylance, Drew Hemingway and Gareth Williams.
3.5 out 5 stars