Monday, July 23, 2018

DVDebut for Russell Harbaugh's well-acted grief 'n gloom fiesta, LOVE AFTER LOVE

Reviews were generally so positive when LOVE AFTER LOVE opened theatrically this past March that TrustMovies made certain to stick it on his must-see list and/or perhaps cover it for its DVD release. That release is now, and sure enough, the movie -- co-written (with Eric Mendelsohn) and directed by Russell Harbaugh (shown below) -- proves to be the very well-acted and relatively insightful look at a family working through its grief during (but mostly after) the death of its husband/father.

Made up of quite a few "family gathering" scenes interspersed with some twosomes, often sexual encounters, the film moves forward in time without explicitly informing you of the where or when. If you pay attention, however, you can easily follow things. Tolstoi's famous-but-specious maxim that begins Anna Karenina (regarding how happy families are all alike but unhappy ones unhappy each in its specific way) comes to mind here, as the family we meet appears to be very unhappy indeed.

Further, this unhappiness does not appear to be stemming merely from grief: These folk were clearly fucked-up long before dad took to dying. Of the two sons, one (James Adomian) is a passive-aggressive alcoholic and the other (Chris O'Dowd) a narcissistic asshole and serial womanizer, and there is no indication that this has not long been the case.

Mom (Andie MacDowell) holds things together as best she can, and it is clear that she's something of a hedonist who was in an "open marriage" before the current husband and is soon involved with someone new afterward.

Mr. Harbaugh makes no excuses for these people. He simply presents them as they are, via their dialog and actions. And yet to make the claim, as many critics have done, that the movie is all about grief and how we manage it seems an oversimplification. It is hardly just grief that these folk are having to handle: It is their life -- past, present and future -- with which they are (barely) coming to terms.

In fact, you may feel -- as did I, my spouse and the friends with whom we viewed the film -- that the extended family (husbands, wives, significant others, friends) were more appealing than the family itself. Still, this is the family we're dealt, movie-wise, and Harbaugh, Mendelsohn and the fine cast bring them to life quite solidly. Mr. O'Dowd (above) is spectacularly good. If anyone else has better portrayed an impossibly narcissistic asshole, I'm at a loss to recall it.

Mr. Adomian has not as much to do here but certainly does it well. His oh-pity-me! less successful brother is a mountain of quiet-but-overbearing excess in every way. And Ms MacDowell (above) proves more than the equal of her on-screen sons. This is one of her most unusual roles -- written with more specificity and detail than the actress is often given -- and she does it full justice, in the process showing us just how much subtlety and understated strength she is capable of.

Nice supporting turns come from Dree Hemingway (above, as O'Dowd's current) and especially from Juliet Rylance (as O'Dowd's ex) -- two of that extended family you'll find yourself wishing were part of a more kindly crew.

From IFC Films and running 93 minutes, the movie hits DVD this coming Tuesday, July 24 -- for purchase and/or rental. It is (or soon will be) available via digital streaming, as well.

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