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Film Review: After Love
by Pat Frickey

Aleem Khan, UK 2020

From a distance it’s a picture of perfect middle-aged domestic bliss. Ahmed (Nasser Memarzia) and his portly wife return from an aqeeqah, a Muslim ceremony for newborns. Ahmed scuttles almost off screen to the living room, conversing in English and singing along off key to some Bollywood-esque sounding songs. His wife faithfully brews up a pot of tea and takes it to him. As she approaches, the singing and conversation have stopped. Ahmed has died, soundlessly, sitting in a comfy living room chair.

As the camera moves in closer it slowly becomes clear, Ahmed’s wife isn’t of Pakistani heritage. Her name is Mary (brilliantly played by Joanna Scanlan). She is a reserved if dowdy blue-eyed, white English woman, dresses in traditional Pakistani clothing, and grieves for her husband surrounded by his family, all while living in the middle of Dover. Mary had fallen madly in love with the dashing Ahmed when they were teenagers, married him, and completely adapted to his way of life.

This is just the first quiet revelation that sneaks up on the moviegoer. As the film progresses, we, along with Mary, slowly discover the unexpected as secret upon secret unravels, and all are woven together into a new tapestry, very different from the one of middle-aged domestic bliss and a pot of tea.

Ahmed, a ferry boat captain, has been making the trip to Calais for decades. While clearing out his wallet, Mary finds the ID card of a blonde Frenchwoman named Genevieve (Nathalie Richard). Confused, but curious Mary takes the ferry over to Calais to try to unravel the mystery. Chic and charming Genevieve welcomes Mary into her home thinking she is a cleaning lady sent by her agency. Mary plays along demurely for a while. Now we’re all off and running, accompanying Mary on her next round of discoveries and secret revelations.