Breaking up after 15 years together can be difficult, especially when children are involved. The situation is further complicated in director Joachim Lafosse’s Belgian film “After Love,” as the combating husband and wife still live in the same home. Man the battle stations.
The film is carried by the strong performances of the two stars, Marie, played by excellent actress Bérénice Bejo, and Boris, portrayed impressively by Cédric Kahn. Boris is somewhat of a loser, and having trouble getting jobs as a handyman, he can’t afford another place to live (Marie, who is from a substantial financial background, pays the mortgage on their home) and thus Borus refuses to move out. He also holds out hopes of Marie wanting to stay with him.
But Marie wants to be rid of him. Naturally, there are economic issues to settle, and there is the problem of Boris wanting to keep up a relationship with their two young daughters, played sympathetically by actual sisters, Jade and Margaux Soentjens.
How does the couple split up the property if it is sold? Boris insists that his renovations have added to the value. Marie is faced with her mother, Christine, played well by Marthe Keller, who rather likes Boris and wants to hire him to do work on her home. He inflates his credentials into the status of an architect, which Marie mocks.
One particularly ugly scene takes place when Marie has invited her friends to dinner outdoors, and Boris comes home and tries to crash it. He behaves rudely when Marie insists he leave.
There is a flicker of the old spark, when Marie and Boris dance together at home one night after a happy time with the children, and they wind up making love. But the spark quickly is extinguished afterward.
When the two argue intensively over finances in the screenplay by Mazarine Pingeot, Fanny Burdino and Lafosse, one may wonder why all of this isn’t in the hands of lawyers, as would be likely in the U.S. (Eventually a notary is involved.)
The quality of the acting mitigates the gradual annoyance one may feel as the continuous war plays out. It is easy to lose patience with these two, as neither is likable, but if one has to take sides, Boris comes across as the more unreasonable and manipulative one. Yet, if one can be generous as an impatient bystander, both are to be pitied. A Distrib Films release. Reviewed August 9, 2017.