Film Review: After Love (2021)

Mary Hussain (Joanna Scanlan) is a British convert who is married to a Pakistani immigrant Ahmed (Nasser Memarzia). Ahmed unexpectedly passes away and leaves the widow isolated in grief. Soon after his death, she finds out that Ahmed secretly had married a French lady Genevieve (Nathalie Richard) with whom Ahmed also has a son.

Okay, first thing! Thank you BBC and BFI to come up with such a heartwarming emotional drama, After Love. Although, I have watched this plot many times in my life, but from the British productional aesthetics, perhaps this means a lot to show a story of two women in different situations, but both being Ahmed’s wives. What was striking about the film is the writing growth that solidifies Mary’s emotional development in the first forty minutes.

There are many touching moments in the film starting from the jawdropping first scene that builds the intensity followed by a one-shot consolation scene of Mary surrounded by lamenting women. Joanna has really given a terrific all-round performance. I am all sold when the directors take special care of small details. There is a scene where Mary in her prayer forgets a verse of Fatiha and tries to remember. It is a brilliant moment to develop theories about this scene. One is she actually forgot the line and felt embarrassed about it. Perhaps Ahmed used to help her remember the lines while praying and she happened to bring that memory back. Or maybe she was a new convert or had recently started to pray and made sense to forget. Or maybe the verse where she stopped had a translation she knew would break her.

I felt it was pretty unnatural on Genevieve not to doubt Mary’s facial shock and silence in the first meeting. Genevieve also didn’t consider a background check on her but rather trust her enough to lend her a copy of the house key. The film is slow-burn but I think the pace could have progressed if the director had considered also picturizing Mary-Ahmed’s happy moments from the past. Despite being a ninety-minute drama, the film was pretty long due to an extremely short plot.

Joanna Scanlan is the heart and soul of this film. This is the first time I have watched her performance and I believe it was a tremendous performance. Her facial expressions were very touching. The film is a quality definition to understand grief, tragedy, and shock. Especially, the elements of emotional surprises blend so well.

After Love also challenges the character to reevaluate the understanding of the religion and test her faith on both bullet incidents. One that she lost her husband and two, she discovered that there was another house and family he kept without her notice. It brings a lot of questions about the plot and Mary’s quest for the answers she never imagined to ask; did Ahmed lie or cheat with Mary? Was Ahmed scared to inform her and maintained the secret? Was Mary the one to lose her temper had Ahmed ever let her know? Because at least the French connection was aware that Ahmed had a wife in Dover and preferred to stay with her. Was religion or the teachings Ahmed had educated Mary were misleading with his deception or an unwanted defense? Was Ahmed to be adjudged amongst one of those thousands of global immigrants who marry a local citizen to get nationalize? It is nowhere propaganda against one nation as the director Aleem Khan himself is a British Pakistani.

After Love is melancholic and a sad tale of losing your beloved and struggling to react to the choices made by the deceased. The plot has made rounds but the detailing and the trajection of hypnosis that carries the burden on the characters is what makes this film a brilliant case study of human affairs.

Ratings: 8/10