Arts

English language remake After The Wedding 'fails to land the emotional body blows' of original of Danish Oscar-nominated drama

Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore conceal a devastating secret in heartrending drama After The Wedding

Billy Crudup as Oscar Carlson and Julianne Moore as Theresa Young in After The Wedding
Damon Smith

LOVE and marriage go together like a startled horse and runaway carriage in writer-director Bart Freundlich's English language remake of Danish director Susanne Bier's Oscar-nominated 2006 drama.

Resetting the action from Copenhagen to New York, After The Wedding is enslaved to an emotionally manipulative plot that feels just as contrived more than a decade later, despite a neat gender swap of the central roles.

While the original film explored fractious family dynamics through the eyes of two men, Freundlich chooses to glimpse heartache from the perspective of Julianne Moore's corporate trailblazer and Michelle Williams's do-gooder, whose fates collide at the titular nuptials.

Williams delivers a masterclass in minimalist expression and Oscar winner Moore seizes every opportunity to wring tear-soaked pathos from her character's anguished situation.

Dialogue occasionally crackles – "You don't have to be poor to have good intentions" – and Billy Crudup offers solid support as a husband facing the devastating repercussions of a life-changing, spur-of-the-moment decision.

However, the well-oiled mechanics of the central story obscure raw emotion and Freundlich stubbornly refuses to stray into the fascinating moral quagmire where wealthy individuals and corporations in the west assert control over lives thousands of miles away in the guise of philanthropy.

Isabel (Williams) lives in Kolkata in West Bengal, where she has cast aside the trappings of her formative years in America to co-found an orphanage.

She is particularly attached to one little boy called Jai (Vir Pachisia) so when a rich benefactor summons her to New York to agree a charitable donation to shore up the orphanage's finances, Isabel is reluctant to abandon her responsibilities.

"We were here long before God brought you to us," a colleague reminds Isabel and she hurriedly packs, promising to return in good time for Jai's birthday.

The benefactor turns out to be powerful businesswoman Theresa Young (Moore), who is poised to sell her company so she can spend more time with her loved ones.

Theresa cannot sign paperwork until after the weekend, when her daughter Grace (Abby Quinn) is due to marry nice guy Frank (Will Chase).

The businesswoman extends an invitation to an irritated and impatient Isabel, who agrees to attend to secure the funding that the orphanage desperately needs.

Arriving late for the lavish ceremony, Isabel is shocked to discover that she recognises Theresa's husband, gifted sculptor Oscar Carlson (Crudup).

Their shared history threatens to derail Grace's fairy tale nuptials.

After The Wedding fails to land the emotional body blows of the original film even with Williams and Moore trading their best verbal punches.

Freundlich doesn't provide characters with the time or space to explore their messy feelings, always keeping one eye on the next twist.

Revelations are coolly and calmly telegraphed so we are braced for the fallout well before histrionics unfold on screen.

Rating: 7/10

AFTER THE WEDDING (12A, 112 mins) Drama/Romance. Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore, Billy Crudup, Abby Quinn, Will Chase, Vir Pachisia. Director: Bart Freundlich.

:: Released November 1

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