After the Wedding
After the Wedding has a praiseworthy cast all performing at their peaks, but never quite gets to the emotional core of the characters’ lives.
An English language adaptation of the 2006 Danish film by the same name, After the Wedding gender flips the main players. In this version, we start with Isabel (Michelle Williams) leading a serene life in India, tending to a school for children in need. The funding has dried up when she receives a summons to go to New York to vie for a massive donation. Theresa (Julianne Moore) is a wealthy businesswomen who wants to invest in a deserving nonprofit, and insists that Isabel come to the city, as her guest, to discuss a potential partnership. Isabel hates to be away from the children, but the prospect of getting enough money for much needed beds and supplies means that she can’t possibly stay.
In New York, Isabel is treated to the finest apartment and car services. All of the luxury makes her visibly uncomfortable, but even the selfless person she is she sees her way to tolerate the penthouse views and constant doting.
Inconveniently, Theresa is far too busy to take a look at Isabel’s proposal on their first meeting. It’s the day before her daughter’s wedding and she’s time crunched and distracted. As a friendly gesture, she invites Isabel to the wedding. That’s precisely when this gets interesting. At the ceremony, it’s clear that Isabel knows Theresa’s husband, Oscar (Billy Crudup), and their history is anything but casual. Could this be an unfortunate coincidence, or were Theresa’s motives more than purely altruistic?
Every performance in After the Wedding is incredible. All of the players have been thrust into a difficult situation with no single route back to peace. This is no surprise, given the collective record of Moore and Williams alone. The scenes between these two women convey so much more than their words, and the gravity they bring to their characters makes for a dynamic energy on screen.
Despite the acting and the mechanically competent filmmaking, After the Wedding never quite ascends to the level of drama it’s aching to achieve. Though abandonment and betrayal are universal emotions, the context here is by no means relatable to most people. While Isabel comes from a simple but fruitful life, the core conflicts in the film are problems of the incredibly wealthy. Love and loss are easy to relate to, but struggling to accept a $20 million donation is not.
Approached as merely an exhibition of the brute force of acting talent, After the Wedding is a beautiful presentation. However, as a drama of the human condition, it falls flat.