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Sundance 2019 Film Review: “After the Wedding” (2019) ★★★★★



© 2018 – Sundance Institute

You know a beautiful story is one which reaches beneath your skin so you feel the pain and happiness of the character you watch with every inch of your body and heart pumping like never before. Whether you saw the 2006 version of “After the Wedding” or not, the renewed version by Bart Freundlich will make you forget that you saw the original version and the powerhouse performances delivered by Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams will keep you hostage long after the film is over.

Isabel (Michelle Williams) runs an orphanage in Calcutta. The lack of finance hits the facility the hardest. An opportunity comes when an entrepreneur from New York, Theresa (Julianne Moore), thinks about providing two million dollars that should fix all the issues the orphanage has. But there’s one problem, Theresa wants Isabel to travel to New York to discuss the offer in-person. Having no choice, Isabel agrees not knowing that she is about to discover a family secret that will shatter her reality and the reality of those who surround her. 

The opening scene captures the internal calamity of Isabel as she continues her meditation along with orphans. She is specifically attached to Jay, the boy she found by the river. Spending years in India has helped her renew her views about life, as we know for a fact she could be a perfect mother one day. As she tries to keep the orphanage afloat, she expresses her dissatisfaction with her upcoming trip to New York. But she was told, it  must be Isabel who should cross the ocean to secure the deal. Theresa, on the other hand, is getting ready for the wedding of her daughter Grace (Abby Quinn). Her husband, Oscar (Billy Crudup), is the most loving and caring husband. He adores his wife and his daughter, while enjoying raising his two little sons.

As the preparation for the wedding comes to a conclusion, Isabel is already in New York City and after a brief discussion with Theresa, even though Isabel did not like the woman that is about to fund the orphanage, she accepts the invitation to attend the wedding of Theresa’s daughter. She did not know that from that moment on painful memories of the past will come back to haunt her, to awake every feeling she tried to escape and begin rebuilding who she is on the ruins of a broken heart and disappointment.

If you have seen the old version, you will notice the main changes done in this one. However, even that will never make you feel as if it was done poorly or polished. Because it was not. Frankly, the film is built on unforced emotions, on stellar performances of the entire cast. It lets you feel Isabel and Theresa. Even though you may dislike Theresa’s choices, but towards the end you will understand and even admire her for what she was doing. It’s an incredibly rich character, full of compassion and love. She is truly a woman that represents the wild combination of fearless attitude, uncompromising approach, being a straight shooter, and a great planner. Yet, what she does for her children and how she turns things around is astounding.

Isabel is as kind as Theresa. Her unconditional dedication to children is poetic. As we learn more about her towards the middle of the film, she grows bigger and bigger before our eyes, as the burden of the past and what awaits her ahead can’t easily be handled. But knowing that she has a strong personality, we grow confident that she can do it. Of course, the biggest confrontation yet, at the wedding, will leave Grace, her husband, and father stunned. But one person will remain calm all the time, a true mastermind, Theresa, who is yet to reveal her reasons for the events that will occur after the wedding.

In conclusion, “After the Wedding” is a fantastic film filled with tenderness and admiration that draws a family portrait in an unconventional way. Indeed, it explores three different human beings and what they did when they were younger or when they become older. It’s about the epic face of two women and the man that must deal with the sad and inevitable reality. It will be hard on all of them to move on from that moment on, but that’s the true beauty of this film, when it takes no hostages, delivers the best it could to let you fall in love with these characters and even love life itself more than you do now. And as for the performances, neither Julianne Moore nor Michelle Williams tried to outplay each other. And every scene, whether they share together or not, is a jewel we must hold onto dearly and never lose. Because what you will see through their performances is pure masterpiece that must be watched over and over again.

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