“After” catalogs so many clichés in the dysfunctional family at its center that the film could be taught in a screenwriting class as a lesson in what not to do.
There’s the oppressive, disapproving dad, Mitch (John Doman). The in-denial, potential head case of a mother, Nora (Kathleen Quinlan). The heir to a family business on the brink of going under, Christian (Pablo Schreiber). The daughter whose father does not approve of her pending marriage, Maxine (Sabrina Gennarino). The black sheep Nicky (Adam Scarimbolo), the alcoholic Kat (Diane Neal) and the flown-the-nest Sam (Alexi Maggio), who regularly dispatches video messages home — taped on VHS cassettes.
At first one might wonder whether the VHS cassettes represent a period prop or whether “After” has been sitting on the shelf without distribution for that long. It’s a reflection of how contrived the screenplay by Gennarino is. It’s impossible to get invested in a story told entirely through shorthand and stereotypes that masquerade as characters.
With wooden performances, little rapport among cast members, stilted direction by Pieter Gaspersz and generic music, the film comes off like a Lifetime movie in the days of yore. “After” gets interesting only when it finally flips the script with a climactic twist — except even that turns out to be a not-so-clever metaphor.
MPAA rating: R for language.
Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes.
Playing: At Laemmle’s NoHo 7, North Hollywood. Also on VOD.