The Here After Review

The Here After

The dark side of teenagers is a subject which has been broached by cinema many times over the years, with varying degrees of success.

There was the slightly underwhelming adaptation of Stephen King’s Apt Pupil, the jarring Elephant by Gus Van Sant and, most recently, Lynne Ramsays’ interpretation of We Need to Talk About Kevin.

And Carrie. Can’t forget about Carrie.

The topic is once again explored by Magnus Von Horn’s feature length debut, The Here After.

With Van Horn also on writing duties, the film views its subject matter through a different lens. Rather than focussing on the motivations behind adolescent violence, this story is preoccupied with the aftermath and possibility of redemption.

John (Ulrik Munther) has just been released from a detention centre of sorts and is welcomed home by his father (Mats Blomgren), who seems determined that his son be reintegrated into his local community and regain some semblance of a normal life. John’s younger brother welcomes him back also.

We do not at first know what crime John has committed but we can gather that it was pretty bad.

John’s rehabilitation almost seems possible until he is met with extreme hostility both at school and in the neighbourhood.

Only one person outside his family seems willing to give John a chance to put the past behind him: Malin (Loa Ek), a new arrival at the school.

As matters progress, it becomes less and less likely that a budding relationship with Malin and the support of his family will be enough protect John’s new start from a town that cannot forget.

This an unsettling but extremely well-made piece about the cracks which a tragedy can leave behind, on a community, family and personal level.

The Here After

Van Horn keeps a distance from the characters, trusting in the honest of their interrelationships and giving the film an almost documentary feel. Audience sympathies are buffeted by the tragic but believable twists and turns which the story takes as it unfolds.

Van Horn’s confident touch aside, the documentary feel is attributable as much to Lukasz Zal’s unadorned cinematography as to the performances, which are all extremely compelling.

Munther, an up-and-coming singer-songwriter in his own right, in particular plays it perfectly, subdued and zombie-like on his release from prison and disconnected from reality.

His vacancy reflects the clean slate he is aiming for, with his emotions increasingly breaking the surface as it becomes clear that the slate will never be clean. In Munther’s hands, John is at once disturbingly remorseless and sadly numbed to the horror of his own past.

Blomgren and Alexander Nordgren as John’s father and brother put in strong, and at times harrowing, performances as the innocent parties who slowly realised how their lives are forever altered by John’s actions.

The story ends with a final shot worthy of Truffaut, and like the rest of the film, offers no easy answers. Highly recommended.

Conor Brennan

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Dates ‘n stuff

March 2016