Love After Love

Warning: do not ask your spouse (or your friend or your kid or your brother) if they’re happy unless you’re really, truly prepared to hear the answer. Unless you’re certain the relationship, and your heart, can survive honesty. Happiness is a tricky thing, perhaps overvalued, perhaps not, but certainly contentious, perhaps elusive, always sought-after.

Brothers Nicholas (Chris O’Dowd) and Chris (James Adomian) are dealing with the death of their father, which was a rough one (or are they all?). Grief never exists in a vacuum. Death doesn’t wait for marriage, divorce, career, or even nervous breakdowns. It doesn’t wait to be convenient. Grief gets woven into the pastiche of life and it’s hard to watch these two mostly lovable guys flail about. But in some ways it’s even harder to watch their mother (Andie MacDowell. Andie MacDowell!) try to cope. She’s too young to be a widow and too vibrant to just curl in on herself. And too concerned about her children to not say what’s on her mind. Grief doesn’t make you a better person.

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Love After Love is a bold movie that refuses to put on a brave face. There are no easy answers and no Hollywood endings. Grief changes a person, distorts a family dynamic. It can be ugly and it can be cruel, and director Russell Harbaugh savours those moments like they’re precious, and I suppose in some essential way, they are. The film feels loose and untethered; a series of family gatherings reveal their struggle to return to stasis. It’s as messy as they are, and seeing these emotions portrayed so honestly and unflinchingly is bleak of course but refreshing – I almost felt a sense of relief to not have to buy into the normal Hollywood tropes.

The cast is wonderful because they’re fearless. I have loved Chris O’Dowd since I first laid eyes on him and in the past few years he’s shown incredible range (though I tend to believe that if you can do comedy, you can do anything – not true in reverse). But I’m also super glad to see Andie MacDowell because we never get enough and she’s as underrated as they come. Together, the three of them reflect an authentic experience that can be hard to watch because it feels personal. This kind of unraveling is meant to be private, or at least that’s what the death rites in North American tell us, and it makes us uncomfortable to witness it. This film delivers some very raw performances and if you can maneuver around the emotional minefield, I think you’ll be quite pleased that you did.

 

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22 thoughts on “Love After Love

  1. J.

    I also like O’Dowd… he’s a genuinely great actor… and very likeable. Anyhoo, I like the sound of this, even if it sounds like a tough one. I’ll keep an eye out for it.

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  2. Keith

    I too like O’Dowd but there was something about this movie that didn’t click with me. I had a hard time balancing my feelings of sympathy and contempt particularly towards his character. Plus it hasn’t really stuck with me like I hoped.

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  3. Tom

    Grief is a bitch. A loss in my family has absolutely made me a worse person. I am so ridiculously hard to deal with these days I don’t blame anyone for fucking off away from me.

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      1. Tom

        Lol I had to go check my OC to see what prompted an apology. Its okay, I haven’t dealt with it well. No need to say sorry. But thanks anyway!

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  4. mydangblog

    I love the way your reviews aren’t just about the movies but also contain philosophy, social awareness, the workings of family dynamics and so much more–always a wonderful read as well as being informative!

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Jay Post author

      My grandfather is in the hospital, dying of cancer. I think life usually informs my viewing habits so I chew on themes for a while and try to find things that will help me deal. If something works, I can make note to refer clients in the future.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  5. Carrie Rubin

    I like Chris O’Dowd too. I’m currently watching him in Get Shorty, a TV series. He’s not a very nice guy in it, so I need to watch him in something where he’s nice, so I can get my positive image of him back. Not sure this is the one. 😄

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