Stars: Joanna Scanlan, Nathalie Richard, Talid Ariss, Nasser Memarzia
The estimable Joanna Scanlan delivers what may be a career-best performance as a mourning wife in this quietly understated but affecting and complex drama.
She is Mary Hussain, a woman who converted to Islam when she married. Now she lives in Dover with her husband Ahmed (Memarzia), a ferry captain. An opening sequence economically sketches their quietly content marriage as they return home after a family event and gossip about the attendees.
Then Ahmed dies suddenly. The day after the burial, while Mary is going through his things, she discovers a picture of an attractive middle-aged French woman and some paper with her address written on it.
She tracks the woman Genevieve (Richard) down to her Calais home. When Genevieve sees Mary on the doorstep in her Salwar Kameez, she assumes that she is a cleaner and invites her inside. In order to find out about Genevieve and her husband’s relationship, and where Genevieve’s rebellious teenage son Solomon (Ariss) figures in all of this, Mary goes along with the misunderstanding and takes the job as domestic cleaner.
Despite the potential for melodrama and psychological intrigue, first time feature writer-director Khan maintains an atmosphere of restraint, with the muted tone underscored by Alexander Dynan’s grey and blue-hued-blue photography.
Scanlan is endlessly compelling as a woman mourning twice over; for her late husband and for the life she assumed she had, while having to build a new identity from scratch. Alongside the intrigue, the picture also works as a touching portrayal of disparate individuals finding a common connection in a messy situation.
After Love is released on 4th June
David Willoughby Follow David on @DWill_Crackfilm