Elliott Lester/ USA/ 2017/ 92 mins
In cinemas Fri 7 April 2017
Perhaps it’s best not to read anything in advance of seeing Aftermath, the new film from director Elliot Lester. Not because of any plot twists or a great reveal but because its impact lies in the simplicity of the story creating space for raw emotional intensity. Due to one tragic event the two main characters become inter-linked. If any of us were to go through the same experience it’s surprising how formulaic and routine our response might be. This is the film’s attraction. Following a timeline from just prior to the said event, til some time after, a special mention should be made to a script which doesn’t have long heroic monologues but allows its characters to pause and breathe. The minimal use of music allows the men to be engulfed in silence conveying their sense of loss.
The film is primarily about grief and how different people cope. It provides a portrait of a hulk of a man who, via his loss, becomes physically diminished. The run time of the film is short but given Arnold Schwarzenegger’s reputation there is always a question of where it might go next. But this is a restrained and controlled performance offset by Scoot McNairy’s equally impressive hyper-emotion. Lester’s striking use of imagery adds another lasting, visual dimension.
Anyone who has, or is, coping with significant life-changing events will recognise the challenges that are presented to both the main characters and their loved ones. What is engaging is the brutal reality of dealing with things on your own, even when surrounded by well-meaning others. These others often have no idea what the right thing to do or say might be. This is another of the film’s real strengths.
Aftermath is every bit as good as many of the films which competed for Oscars in February and hopefully won’t be unfairly overlooked in 2018 due to its understated presence.