Socialist Worker

After Love—a disturbing yet beautiful film about grief and identity

In After Love, recently bereaved Mary Hussain discovers her husband’s secret life—and what she has in common with his other family, writes Sophie Squire

Issue No. 2757

Joanna Scanlan as Mary Hussein in After Love

Joanna Scanlan as Mary Hussain in After Love

After Love is a film about identity, culture and grief written and directed by Aleem Khan in his debut feature film.

After the death of her husband, Muslim convert Mary Hussain, played by Joanna Scanlan, uncovers a secret from his past. He has a partner across the Channel in France.

Wanting to discover more, Mary travels to Calais and becomes the cleaner for her husband’s partner Genevieve, played by Nathalie Richard.

Mary soon discovers they have a son named Solomon (Talid Ariss) together.

Tension builds as Mary continues to visit Genevieve and Solomon’s house to clean. She uncovers old photos of her husband and tapes that are entirely alien to her.

The audience is left willing Mary to tell Solomon and Genevieve what has happened to their partner and father as they simply believe he’s away working.

Mary starts to develop ­relationships with Genevieve and Solomon. In some ways this is disturbing considering she has lied to enter their home.

At one stage she even sends ­messages to Solomon pretending to be his father.

But during her visits she is able to start to find things in common with two people her husband loved.

This film focuses on people left behind after the death of a loved one, and the things they have in common despite their different backgrounds

One of the most poignant scenes is when Mary cooks dinner for Solomon and speaks to him in Urdu.

She mentioned that she learnt it so she could understand what her ­husband’s family says about her.

The film only touches on why Mary converted to Islam. But Mary’s religious choices aren’t really what this film is about.

And the film makes no moral judgement against Ahmed, or Genevieve who knew he had a wife when they were together.

Instead this film focuses on people left behind after the death of a loved one, and the things they have in common despite their different backgrounds.

Scanlan shines as Mary despite speaking very little for a large part of the film.

She expertly plays a character that is cowed by grief, but also ­determined to discover the truth.

And Ariss is brilliant as a young man discovering different facets of his identity.

This is a beautiful and sad film.

After Love is in cinemas from Friday 4 June

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Sat 29 May 2021, 19:40 BST
Issue No. 2757
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