This Belgian film bravely wanders on to the bloody battlefield of a separating family, and the effect is extremely powerful, if far from pretty. Writer-director Joachim Lafosse has intelligently delved into the politics of the household before: first with 2006’s ‘Private Property’, a drama about divorce starring Isabelle Huppert; and later with the devastating ‘Our Children’, about a real-life case of infanticide.
Here, he plunges us into the home of Marie (Bérénice Bejo) and Boris (Cédric Kahn), a couple who’ve been together 15 years and have twin daughters, but whose relationship is all but over. The big snag is that Marie and Boris are still living together, and to say they’re at each other’s throats is putting it mildly. Marie is the main earner; Boris can’t afford to move out, but as a carpenter, he has expended blood, sweat and toil on the house in which they now live, and he wants his due.
Lafosse’s drama takes place in that unhappy space where reason and emotion cross over so that neither make much sense any more. ‘After Love’ is painful to watch at times, but it’s also very well performed by Bejo and Kahn. The script has a claustrophobic intensity to it but also remembers to nod to the love that once existed between the pair, and the respect that might still. It also features one of the most watch-through-your-fingers dinner party scenes ever, when Boris returns home one evening and invades a soirée Marie is holding with ‘her’ friends. Like much of the film, it’s awkward and upsetting.