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Sundance 2019 Review: ‘After The Wedding’

Sundance 2019 Review: ‘After The Wedding’

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Susanne Bier — may be known more for her work on the Netflix film that recently went viral — Bird Box than her Academy-Award winning Danish film In A Better World. Complex relationships centered around family is what she’s best known for. The adaptation of her critically acclaimed film After The Wedding explores the intersecting lives of these characters told through the lens of writer/director Bart Freundlich.

The characters were also gender-swapped from the original adaptation. 

A compassionate story about a woman named Isabel (Michelle Williams) who has spent a significant part of her life running an orphanage in Calcutta, India.  She is dedicated to her work and passionate about what she does.  She’s developed a close kinship with one of the children she looks after in the orphanage and is willing to do the impossible to ensure the children’s needs are met.

When the orphanage runs low on supplies, Isabel receives word of a grant that may be the answer to their problems.  A multimillionaire media conglomerate is led by an assertive and determined woman by the name of Theresa (Julianne Moore).  When Isabel and Theresa meet, their lives are forever changed in this complicated, compelling and gut-wrenching story about love, loss, and restoration. 

Julianne Moore delivers a bold and emotional performance as Theresa, who has some secrets of her own and her artist husband Oscar (Billy Crudup) has some skeletons in his closet as well.  As the story unfolds and the layers of the plot slowly expose themselves, we learn why Isabel’s visit to Theresa is of consequential significance.  As Theresa pontificates over the decision to fund Isabel’s orphanage, she invites her to her daughter Grace’s (Abby Quinn) wedding. However, Theresa is pressed to hurry back to care for her kids in Calcutta. 

It is at the wedding when Isabel spots Oscar and the story shifts dramatically.

After The Wedding delivers stunning performances. Williams and Moore give nuanced portrayals that will move you. Moore specifically provides a tearjerking performance as a woman dealing with a myriad of complicated issues and how each intersects in ways that impact both her family and Isabel.

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Grace played by Abby Quinn has a character arc that goes through so many twists and turns that you feel emotionally drained by what she is dealing with and the empathy is palpable.

Director Bart Freundlich, who is married to actress Julianne Moore in real life, does a beautiful job of capturing the dynamic of family and this piece of art felt very personal while enduring each scene. 

The movie feels like a soap opera — but in a good way.

The way the format has a structure that is filled with one unexpected plot twist to the next and drama intensifies in each scene. The way a daytime drama intensifies with each episode.

The film also outlines the dichotomy between the socioeconomic status of Theresa, who spends her money frivolously on high priced dinners, fancy artwork and a lavish wedding for her daughter Grace.  Meanwhile, Isabel, who has worked in the peace corps and has spent many of her years working in third world countries, sees how Theresa spends her millions.

Freundlich and Susanne Bier in her adapted screenplay are also not afraid to strip the layers of each character so that you see all of who they are. The pretty, the mediocre and the downright ugly. Isabel and Theresa are far from examples of women who are flawless and even in one of the most charitable and giving roles as someone who runs an orphanage, Isabel is not as selfless as you may be led to believe.  

After The Wedding is a deep, heartfelt film that beautifully reveals the connection between these two women who couldn’t be any more different. If you’re into melodramas with messy romantic arcs and complicated relationships this film is a perfect fit. There are moments throughout the movie when the pacing slows down and the second act starts to drag a little bit, but overall the story holds up on its own and adding the likes of Williams and Moore to this story makes it even more satisfying to watch.

After The Wedding premiered Thursday, Jan 24th in Park City, Utah at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

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