After Love is the directorial feature debut of Aleem Khan and stars Joanna Scanlan as Mary, an Englishwoman who converted to Islam for her husband Ahmed (Nasser Memarzia). While still reeling from his sudden death, she finds the identity card of a French woman in his wallet and heads to France to uncover the truth.
From the outset, Mary comes across as an outsider. Dressed in white, she is the only Caucasian in her family mourning her husband. She is also the only one not crying – but we soon realise that she has her own way of grieving. Instead of openly expressing her emotions, she finds solace in her faith and a saved voicemail from Ahmed. However, her quiet nature is fractured upon discovering his double life with Genevieve (Nathalie Richard), a lady living across the English Channel.
Contracted as Genevieve’s cleaner, Mary realises the depth of her husband’s lies, which are further complicated by his teenage son Solomon (Talid Ariss). An underlying tension hints at her pain upon seeing Ahmed’s second family, especially as she is still grieving. However, seeing them struggle with their own secrets stops her from revealing her identity, as well as highlight the extent of Ahmed’s lies and how far people will go to spare someone’s feelings.
After Love also brings an interesting contrast between Mary and Genevieve. Mary’s attentiveness and patience see her unexpectedly bond with Solomon. Meanwhile, Genevieve becomes preoccupied with Ahmed’s ‘absence’, which further detach herself from her son. It is not until a tense impromptu dinner when the women’s maternal instincts clash, somewhat cementing their rivalry and souring their friendship.
The performances in After Love are poignant and nuanced. While Scanlan is moving as Mary, supporting cast members Richard and Ariss offer additional emotional depth. Behind the camera, Khan’s sensitive direction and screenplay provide two different perspectives that beautifully balances the narrative.
Overall, After Love marks a wonderful debut for Khan. Heartbreaking and compelling, it is sure to be a sleeper hit for this year’s BFI London Film Festival.
Director: Aleem Khan
Stars: Joanna Scanlan, Nessar Memarzia, Nathalie Richard, Talid Ariss
Runtime: 89 minutes