A story centered around the Valentinos, a struggling family whose delicate balance is threatened by a carefully concealed secret that, if revealed, will change their lives forever.
“After” begins with our introduction to the Valentino family, mom and dad Nora and Mitch (Kathleen Quinlan & John Doman) and their adult children Christian (Pablo Schreiber), Nicky (Adam Scarimbolo) and Maxine (Sabrina Gennarino). Mitch and Christian run their own textile business which is not doing very well and in amongst the family members coming and going, everyone seems overly protective of Nora. They are all very cautious in what they do and say around her and even when they are out in public, they are very quick to pull her away from friendly neighbors or acquaintances, in case she gets caught up in conversation.
This aspect of the movie plays very clandestinely in the background, only surfacing from time to time but when it does emerge, it is always the elephant in the room. Asides from this element, we see that Christian has pretty much taken over the family business by himself and try as he may, he is slowly sinking further and further into financial ruin. His sister Maxine is in a long-term relationship with Andy (Darrin Dewitt Henson) and when he approaches her father Mitch, and asks him for permission to marry her, he declines. He never specifies why but it’s quite obvious the reason is because Andy is black.
Nicky is the youngest in the family and while he is a hothead and is constantly getting into trouble, he is the only family member who makes it abundantly clear throughout the movie, without giving anything away, that he disapproves of the big secret that everyone is involved in. Initially, the whole family doesn’t get along but gradually, each seems to come into their own, putting their selfish character traits aside and actually listening to and trying to understand each other. Thankfully, the film doesn’t end up with everybody becoming best friends with each other, rather, we can see there’s a long road ahead of them but that they are each willing to put forth the effort.
As the family appears to be getting closer, the big secret finally surfaces and it has a devastating effect on Nora. As a result, she may never fully recover and the rest of the family must deal with the consequences of their actions. Although the secret is justified, at least in their eyes, in the end, they have nobody to blame but themselves. Each character felt genuinely authentic and I literally felt like a fly on the wall, observing a real-life family and their everyday synergy. Each member of the family has their own failings but over the course of the movie, you find yourself rooting for them to re-connect with each other because while they think they are doing fine, individually, we know they would do even better as a unified family.
Kathleen Quinlan is, without a doubt, the most essential element here and she gives a performance that is both inspiring and heartbreaking. The movie is not without its faults but it is deeply affecting and is both poignant and wonderfully acted.
In select theaters and on VOD August 8th
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