When does a plot point become a spoiler?
It’s a question critics grapple with regularly, whether pondering what to say about the final act of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, or how much to reveal about some superhero’s incredibly original origin story.
A good rule of thumb is that anything in the first 20 minutes or so is fair game; after that, critics must tread carefully lest they turn some explosive reveal into a squib. And by that reckoning, I can say almost nothing about After the Wedding. The nuptials in question take place about a half-hour into the movie, and everything that matters to the plot follows, as the title suggests.
Then again, maybe you’ve seen the 2006 original by Susanne Bier, which starred Mads Mikkelsen as an orphanage manager in India who is called home to Denmark by the promise of a big donation from a wealthy benefactor. It earned an Oscar nomination for best foreign-language picture that year.
American writer/director Bart Freundlich flips the genders of the main characters, so that in this version it’s Michelle Williams as Isabel who flies home to New York City. Her would-be donor is Theresa (Julianne Moore), who seems distracted by the business at hand, over-shares about her daughter’s upcoming marriage, asks some mildly inappropriate questions of Isabel, then impulsively invites her to the wedding the next day.
At the wedding, Isabel sees Theresa’s husband (Billy Crudup) and his daughter (Abby Quinn), and has the kind of paralyzed, internal emotional reaction that Williams does so well. Clearly she and the husband once knew each other, but we won’t find out more about their history until – you guessed it – After the Wedding.
Freundlich has made a rather traditional drama out of the story, which means it loses something of the fizz and pop of the Danish original. But Moore (who also happens to be the director’s wife) does a great portrayal of a woman used to having her own way in everything, including those life-changing things that most of us consider to be outside our control. Wealthy and powerful, she orchestrates what she thinks will be a donation that will benefit everyone involved.
But if you’ve ever received a wedding or birthday gift that didn’t quite satisfy, you’ll know that not every act of charity has the intended consequences. After the Wedding explores what it means to want the best for someone, how we strive to make it happen, and the vast gulf that exists in between.
After the Wedding opens Aug. 16 in Toronto and Vancouver, and Aug. 23 in Montreal, with other cities to follow.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019