After Love

A portrait of a French common-law marriage in decline.

The real star of L’économie du couple — wanly translated as After Love is the home Marie (Bérénice Bejo) and Boris (Cédric Kahn) share with their 8-year-old twin daughters. In and of itself, the two-bedroom flat is a modest space, save for the garden courtyard. But Boris doesn’t own it; Marie does. After 15 unmarried years together, they’ve replaced trust and kindness with exhaustion and resentment. Emptied of affection, Marie can’t even bring herself to place a bowl of pasta in front of him. Because she is the breadwinner, Boris can’t afford to move out — nor does he want to. He’s emotionally dependent on the idea of having a family, but ill-equipped to take care of one, so he moves into the study like an unwanted houseguest.

The plot may sound similar to The Break-Up with Jennifer Aniston, but tonally, it’s an Old World away. Kahn, who is better known in the U.S. as a director, convinces as a man who can’t stop fighting for a relationship he knows is in its death throes. Bejo’s uptight shoulders and her downturned mouth persuade us that the tensions of living with her ex have become unbearable. Until the last five minutes, Joachim Lafosse, who directed and co-wrote the film, eschews melodrama. His camera favors a glum vérité that simply records the unraveling of love.

After Love
Not rated.
Opens Friday at the 4-Star Theatre.

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