The After: Review. By Simon Thompson.
Misan Harriman’s short film The After is a work which manages to balance the emotions of acute grieving sadness with a sense of muted optimism at the same time. The plot of centres around Dayo (David Oyelowo) a successful businessman with a loving wife and daughter, however it’s clear that Dayo has had to sacrifice time that he could be spending with his family in the pursuit of success. David is understandably frustrated by this dynamic so he decides to delay a business meeting so that he can attend his daughter’s dance recital. Tragedy strikes however, when a masked assailant ambushes David and his family slaying his wife and daughter in front of him.
The plot then picks up sometime later where we now see that David is a rideshare driver wracked by an understandably strong sense of survivor’s guilt as he tries to find some semblance of meaning and comfort after suffering a horrific tragedy. Despite its taut nineteen minute run-time, The After is sadly a bit of a mixed bag, but what it really has going for it is David Oyelowo’s performance as Dayo and Misan Harriman’s strong sense of cinematography. Oyelowo gives a masterful performance in this movie, unlike a lot of other actors who I imagine would be a lot showier in their portrayal of Dayo’s grief, Oyelowo plays it as impossibly understated.
Oyelowo doesn’t go for big gestures or smouldering intensity, instead opting for an almost zen like sense of quiet and restraint up until the climax. His acting here is at it’s best when he isn’t even speaking at all and just looking into the camera, allowing the audience to see the pain etched onto his face in a masterclass of De Niro- like understatement.
The other strong suit of The After is Misan Harriman’s cinematography. Harriman’s background in photography is very much on display in The After-he has both an excellent sense of where to position the camera and a keen eye for using natural light which given that the movie is mostly shot in outdoor locations is of great benefit to the visuals. Harriman’s use of close-ups, however, is what really struck me as I was watching the movie, with the shot of Dayo sitting in his car listening to his wife’s voicemails being a beautiful combination of Harriman’s visual flair and Oyelowo’s acting ability.
In spite of how good Oyelowo’s acting and Harriman’s directing is, the biggest issue I have with The After is that it veers too often into a kind of schmaltzy sentimentality. After the jarring events of the first five minutes which I genuinely didn’t see coming, the film becomes disappointingly clichéd for most of the narrative to the extent if it weren’t for Oyelowo’s performance and Harriman’s visual’s The After’s slightly too maudlin script wouldn’t be able to stand up to scrutiny. The bulk of the issues with the script however largely come from the fact that this is Harriman and co-writer John Julius Schwabach’s first script, so a lot of the cliched dialogue and predictability probably stems from this.
Script issues aside, I would actually recommend The After on the strength of David Oyelowo’s performance alone- in nineteen short minutes he manages to run a gauntlet of emotions saving an inconsistent script through his sheer ability.
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