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APRES LUI (AFTER HIM)(director/writer: Gaël Morel; screenwriter: Christophe Honoré; cinematographer: Jean-Max Bernard; editor: Catherine Schwartz; music: Louis Sclavis; cast: Catherine Deneuve (Camille), Thomas Dumerchez (Franck), Guy Marchand (François), Elodie Bouchez (Laure), Adrien Jolivet (Mathieu), Elli Medeiros (Pauline), Luis Rego (Franck’s father), Amina Medjoubi (Franck’s mother); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Laurent Lavolé/Isabelle Pragier; Fox Searchlight; 2007-France-in French with English subtitles)
“If Deneuve wasn’t in it, the film would be unwatchable.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Gaël Morel (“3 Dancing Slaves”) directs this maudlin tale over a mother, Camille (Catherine Deneuve), suffering from extreme grief over her 20-year-old college son Mathieu’s (Adrien Jolivet) accidental death. Mom becomes obsessed with his best friend Franck (Thomas Dumerchez), who drove the car into a tree that killed her son after they attended a bachelor party for a friend dressed as ladies. It’s cowritten by Morel and Christophe Honoré.

Camille is a wealthy and unpretentious woman, who runs a first-class bookshop in Lyon. Her older daughter Laure (Elodie Bouchez), who is three months pregnant and her ex-husband François (Guy Marchand), are not pleased with Camille’s efforts to reject their love and instead smother Franck with her maternal love and make him her pet project, such as staying atop the guilt-ridden student to finish his college studies, hiring the bewildered student to work part-time in her bookstore, following the hunky tatted-up stud– from a Portuguese immigrant working-class family– on his Portugal vacation, and giving him a present of an expensive scooter.

The film uncompromisingly pushes a mother’s unhealthy extreme grief on us and that overwrought scenario didn’t work for me (for some, it would work, making this a film you either love or hate), as mom seemed in need of counseling and the film in need of a better screenplay. If Deneuve wasn’t in it, the film would be unwatchable. Since she’s in it, it’s always good to watch her perform and try to make this problematic story rise above its funeral atmosphere with her rich expressive performance. But the film never lands on its feet, comes with an enigmatic European ending and is a dirge from beginning to end.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”