Review: ‘AFTER THE WEDDING’ proves life never goes as planned.

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Directed by: Bart Freundlich 
Starring: Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore, Billy Crudup, and Abby Quinn

** Opening Night Film 2019 Sundance Film Festival **

As if driven by an inescapable force, Isabel (Michelle Williams) has devoted her life to running an orphanage in a Calcutta slum. With funds running dry, a potential donor, who requires she travel from India to New York, to deliver a presentation in-person, contacts Isabel. At first, balking at the demand of an uncommitted philanthropist, she relents and travels to a city she deliberately hasn’t returned to in over two decades.

Once in New York, Isabel lands uncomfortably in the sightline of the orphanage’s possible benefactor, Theresa Young (Julianne Moore), a multi-millionaire media mogul accustomed to getting what she wants. From the glittering skyscraper where she runs her successful business, to the glorious Oyster Bay estate, where she lives happily with her artist husband, Oscar Carlson (Billy Crudup), 21-year-old daughter, Grace (Abby Quinn), and eight-year-old twins, Theo and Otto, Theresa’s life couldn’t appear to be more perfect and different from Isabel’s. But appearances are only skin deep and the two women have more in common than meets the eye.

While Isabel thinks she’ll soon be returning to her beloved orphanage, Theresa has other plans. She insists Isabel attend Grace’s wedding at the family’s estate. The joyful event becomes a catalyst for a revelation that upends the lives of both women, and the people who love them most.

This script is as beautifully complex as real life is. You can make all the plans in the world but life has a funny way of doing whatever it wants. A wedding is a huge event, not just for the bride and groom but their entire family. It comes with as much stress as it does joy. When key communication breaks down because there are secrets, all hell can break loose. There are so many secrets in AFTER THE WEDDING each character has the emotional right to spin out, be irrational, and even grieve what might have been.

Performances across the board are outstanding. Michelle Williams is stunning as she is forced to relive heartbreaking choices. Billy Crudup must come to grips with the lies he has perpetrated for love. Julianne Moore has to let go of the control she’s always not so secretly had. Abby Quinn has a vulnerability of a much more experienced actress. I look forward to seeing her (and hearing her sing) again soon. The entire cast gives truly nuanced performances that are vulnerable and raw.

The rich colors in the film wrap themselves around the viewer. The gorgeous opening and closing drone shots make a brilliant cyclical statement about life in general. AFTER THE WEDDING reminds us all that life is complicated and never neat. Take advantage of the time you have with the people you love the most.

About Liz Whittemore

Liz grew up in northern Connecticut and was memorizing movie dialogue from Shirley Temple to A Nightmare on Elm Street at a very early age. She will watch just about any film all the way through (no matter how bad) just to prove a point. A loyal New Englander, a lover of Hollywood, and true inhabitant of The Big Apple.

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