Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Another marriage in disrepair

Had we met Marie and Boris under different circumstances, we might actually have liked them. But in Belgian director Joachim Lafosse's After Love, we encounter Marie and Boris at their worst. They're in the midst of a break-up, but -- for reasons both practical and emotional -- they're living in the same apartment with their two daughters (Jade and Margaux Soentjens). Boris (Cedric Kahn) is bad with money; Marie (Berenice Bejo) pays most of the bills. The couple tries (frequently without success) to be civil to each other because of their daughters. Marie's mother (Marthe Keller) works at keeping the peace, encouraging her daughter not to give up on the marriage. But Marie no longer loves Boris and has become an expert at giving him an icy cold shoulder. She wills herself to shut him out, and anyone who's ever been walled off by another person will recognize the authenticity in Bejo's performance. Set mostly in the apartment Marie and Boris share, the movie observes the couple as they fight, enter periods of rocky co-existence, and, occasionally, reach a temporary rapprochement. Lafosse creates plenty of domestic tension, leaving us to pick our way through the rubble of a relationship that clearly has no future. Both Kahn and Bejo are well suited to playing former lovers who, over time, have become hopelessly mismatched. It's not easy to be around these two, especially in a movie that maintains such a tight focus, seldom leaving their apartment. It doesn't take long before we start rooting for Boris to move out -- mostly so that we can get away from both husband and wife. That's the point, of course, to give us a realistic picture of a marital end-game. Slow moving, the movie wades through a sea of hostilities while we wait for a major blow-up or a thaw in the ice that allows these two to reveal something about what made them a couple in the first place. As it stands, both Marie and Boris seem destined to gain by bidding each other farewell. Credit Lafosse for making a stab at honesty, but you may be glad finally to be liberated from that emotionally congested apartment.

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