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  After Love Someone In Common
Year: 2020
Director: Aleem Khan
Stars: Joanna Scanlan, Nathalie Richard, Talid Ariss, Nasser Memarzia, Sudha Buchar, Nisha Chadha, Jabeen Butt, Subika Anwar-Khan, Elijah Braik, Adam Karim, David Hecter, Pierre Delpierre
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Mary (Joanna Scanlan) and her husband Ahmed (Nasser Memarzia) had just returned home one evening and she had made them both a mug of tea, when she realised, suddenly, shockingly, he had died. The family arranged the proper Muslim funeral, and as a convert of many years standing she agreed to all that was required of her, but that sense she had never been completely accepted by her husband's community was nagging at the back of her mind, no matter how long they had been married. However, that was nothing compared to what she discovered while going through his things...

After Love was one of those films where it succeeded best on the audience if they had no idea what was about to happen next, so any potential viewer may want to know that if you preferred low key drama, you were probably going to respond favourably to this and leave reading any reviews until after you had seen it. If you wished to be better prepared for what the film had in store, then by all means read up about it, though bear in mind this tale of a middle-aged woman going on an adventure she had never even considered before her husband passed away operated best if its secrets were a surprise to you as well.

To spoil it a little, then: Mary discovers her husband has been having an affair, which would be humiliating enough, and once she has read through his recent text messages to see what he has been writing to this mystery woman, she manages to get hold of an address - not in Britain, but in France, just a short hop over the Channel to Calais, which has evidently been the most convenient place to keep this mistress. Feeling neglected by the family - the other Islamic characters are basically sketches - and blazing with curiosity, she decides to take a trip and confront this woman, who she can only identify from an identity card.

After Love was, after some short films, the debut feature of Aleem Khan, who has an Islamic background himself and threads some "as others see us" observations through his story. Mary is devout in her worship, but now her husband is no longer around, she starts to wonder if this religious faith has been as much of a sham as her marriage has been: you can see she feels tricked, tricked in her love for Ahmed, and tricked into embracing a culture she was not born into and suspects she will always be an outsider in, not fitting in with one part of society or another. But it is the marriage that concerns her most, as she ponders whether she has wasted her life on an unworthy man.

Yet interestingly, Ahmed is not painted as an out and out villain, for he was a very good husband to Mary, loving, attentive, understanding, everything she could have wanted, aside from the whole Run for Your Wife arrangement he had been juggling for decades. Being a ship's captain, he had an excuse for staying away from home for certain periods, so Mary never twigged, while her counterpart in France, as she discovers, knew all along. Khan, who penned the screenplay, had a few delaying techniques to keep the mystery going for the other woman (Nathalie Richard), at least, and there was a fresh surprise or two for Mary as well, including one which makes her question what use to Ahmed she was as a wife. If anything, Khan played the delaying tactics too often, to the point of dawdling, but what kept you watching was Scanlan, one of those consistently good performers who rarely had a lead to shine with, but assuredly made the most of her chances here. Music by Chris Roe, though not much of it, as despite some intense scenes this was a quiet film.

[AFTER LOVE - released in cinemas 4th June.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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