Vague Visages’ After review contains minor spoilers. Anthony Lapia’s 2023 movie stars Louise Chevillotte, Majd Mastoura and Natalia Wiszniewska. Check out the VV home page for more film reviews, along with cast/character summaries, streaming guides and complete soundtrack song listings.
Anthony Lapia’s stark, confident debut feature After is about inhibition in nighttime spaces, the singular moments that bind strangers together and the endless possibilities found in the collective experience of clubbing.
After’s plot is simple: on a night in Paris — in which the Yellow Vests Protests are going strong — a disparate group of clubbers dance, consume drugs and ignore the world outside. In a smoking area, Félicie (Louise Chevillotte) meets Saïd (Majd Mastoura), an Uber driver. As their conversation turns from banal into something more interesting, they leave the club for the relative calm of Félicie’s nearby apartment while the party continues into the night.
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After’s appeal isn’t in its narrative complexity. Instead, the film’s strengths lie in the perfect capturing of the rhythms and atmosphere of a night out — one that bursts with energy, with competing conversations — and the gradual transition into the hinterland of dawn, between the dual selves that exist in night and day.
Lapia and cinematographers Robin Fresson and Raimon Gaffier use jolting, swirling lights to illuminate club scenes. Conversations happen through gestures and movements — two strangers kiss passionately, their bodies bathed in shadow and light that only increases After’s sense of constant, unrestrained movement. The use of close-ups prevent a full understanding of the club’s space, and the only things that matter are beads of sweat disappearing down the neck of a shirt, heads thrown back in ecstasy and drug-induced euphoria glimpsed as the camera moves seamlessly between the crowd.
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After’s soundtrack dominates the first half of the film, whether it’s music playing in the next room while clubbers relax outside or while dancers move to the ever-present sounds that overwhelm any dialogue that could take place. When Lapia cuts to Félicie’s flat, the sudden absence of sound is as intense as its earlier presence, and the film easily shifts between the dynamism of the club and the sparse, harshly lit apartment where normality slowly begins to creep in.
The central duo of Chevillotte and Mastoura approach After’s second act with a careful, studied detachment as a new, tentative and probing relationship begins to develop. Whether it will turn into a romantic or platonic one isn’t the point. Félicie and Saïd sit close to each other but don’t really touch beyond the passing of a drink. They sneak glances at each other as they argue about the nature of clubbing, and change the subject when it gets too personal. It’s in this space that they shift slowly into their daytime selves. For Saïd, it’s the passion and possibilities of the protests that give him hope for those dedicated to making France a better place. Félicie takes the opposing view, declaring that neoliberalism has won (her own day job prevents her from believing in the possibilities of structural overhaul ) and delivering her argument in a breathless rant that ends with an awkward silence. Would these two meet under any other circumstances? Could this new relationship last beyond the quiet hours of the afterparty?
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After isn’t concerned with answering questions about the protagonists. The interest lies in the forming of late night connections and the creation of deep bonds between strangers during fleeting moments of ecstasy where the world’s problems are out of sight. Lapia’s dynamic debut creates a powerful ode to escapism through its technical simplicity.
Rose Dymock (@rosedymock) is a freelance film critic and culture writer from the UK. Her interests are multilingual cinema, thrillers and British film. She is the festivals editor for Screen Queens and has bylines at Film Inquiry, Little White Lies and Zavvi.
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