Belgium director Joachim Lafosse found modest art-house success with his 2012 breakthrough, Our Children. Yet his follow-up feature, The White Knights, was barely screened in the states at all. After Love seems more primed for broader distribution, in part because it features the Academy Award-nominated Bérénice Bejo in a lead role - but the efficacy of Lafosse’s domestic dramaturgy appears to have run its course.
The film deals with the disintegrating marriage of Marie (Bérénice Bejo) and Boris (Cédric Kahn), a seemingly well-off couple raising twin girls. The hostility between the two is immediate and cutthroat: after an onerous exchange that opens the picture, you’re surprised to learn that the couple has yet to actually move forward with a divorce. They remain a unit, in part for their children, but also for the anfractuous particulars of their finances. With the film’s French title literally translated to "The Economy of the Couple", Lafosse admirably attempts to detail the breakup of a marriage through a more clinical, economically-focused perspective.
A vital sequence to the film sees Marie and Boris sitting at their dining table, pouring over the numbers associated with the purchase and remodeling of their home. Its value and Boris’ contributing work to its renovations is a particular point of dissent for the couple. The scene is notable for its rough-around-the-edges quality that informs Lafosse’s naturalistic approach. But it’s the sequences that aim for broader, more emotionally driven moments that compromise After Love’s more organic components. Boris’ fiduciary irresponsibility and its violent consequences seem too outrageous for a film that finds most of its drama in smaller affectations. Lafosse struggles to wrangle these two competing qualities, and despite an exceedingly persuasive performance from Bejo, the film slogs to its inevitable conclusion.