As is often the case, the key to the film lies in its (original French) title, L’économie du couple, or ‘The Couple’s Economy’. This loudly announces the drama’s central obsession—money, money, money—which is also the foundation of their frustrating situation: neither has the means to move out of their shared flat until a divorce settlement is agreed (which demonstrates that ‘conscious uncoupling’ is really only the preserve of Hollywood A-listers).
But the title also extends to the economical way the whole film is shot. The action remains trapped in the close quarters of the apartment and much of our vision is restricted to close-ups of faces. To say the effect is claustrophobic would be an understatement.
The aural quality of the film also feels too close for comfort. In the near-absence of a soundtrack, all other sounds seem unnaturally amplified—the clatter of plates and cutlery, the running of bath water, texting—which transports us into the mental space of a relationship that has been ground down to the raw bone and where the slightest remark can set nerves firing, sparking lengthy heated arguments.
Though for the most part the film is a chamber piece, held together convincingly and compellingly by Bejo and Kahn’s double-act, the film does also occasionally open out (such as in an excruciatingly awkward dinner party scene) to consider the other people – the couple’s two daughters, family and friends – who get caught in between the cracks of this fractured relationship.
In the end, it takes a minor tragedy for us to break out the confines of the toxic household and bring the film towards its inevitable conclusion of a hard-won but amiable divorce.
All the above, admittedly, does not make After Love an enjoyable film to watch. You suffer mild cabin fever and you are never left in doubt about the fragility of the few feel-good moments. However, the discomfort is undoubtedly part of the film’s point, and one of its strengths, as we take our place alongside the various other onlookers within the film before which this couple insist on playing out their multiple dramas. This is truly life after love.
Ultimately though, the film’s success reaches back to its original title in its exploration of all the marriage’s material baggage that remains to be divided and distributed and the uncomfortable and persistent difficulties of breaking all this down into separate units, like so much change in a purse.
|What||After Love film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
28 Oct 16 – 28 Dec 16, Times vary
|Price||£determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more details|