Toronto After Dark, Day 4: After
Two strangers, Ana and Freddy, meet on a bus. There is a crash, and they each awake an indeterminate amount of time later in their own beds. They find the town empty of life except for them, and an ominous black fog encircles the area, slowly inching inwards.
Although the film has been marketed as a thriller, this may be the source of the very mixed reception that After has met with thus far. What follows is really more of a paranormal mystery, a little bit of horror, and a love story. The story gradually unfurls before us, as our protagonists try to figure out what has happened and how, if at all, they can escape. That they are trapped within a place that echoes their own memories is clear, but is it an alternate dimension, a dream, or something else entirely?
We watch as the relationship develops between these two strangers, who just so happened to grow up down the street from each other. Although Ana (played by Karolina Wydra, probably best known for playing House’s wife in the final two seasons) and Freddy (Steven Strait) are not particularly complex characters, the relationship between is sweet and effective in the context of the film.
In terms of visual presentation, After is a bit of a mess, with average CGI and an overly aggressive use of blue filter making things difficult to make out. I recall one moment where a comment is made about it getting dark out, and I was genuinely surprised to hear that it was not already.
I have purposely not said too much about the plot itself, as this is certainly a film in which most of the joy comes from discovering what is going on for yourself. One thing worth mentioning is that there is a five-second clip at the end of the credits which may serve to re-frame the entire film. Should you watch it? Hard to say, but for me it took an enjoyable experience and made it better. Very few people in the screening I attended stayed to that point.
Regardless, this is a suitably creepy mystery with a good heart that has been one of the surprising highlights of the TADFF for me thus far. 3.5 out of 5.