Director Bart Freundlich has taken the risky decision of remaking a European film for his latest feature. Danish writer and director Susanne Bier originally made After the Wedding (Efter Brylluppet) in 2006, with Mads Mikkelson starring. Freundlich has rewritten Beir’s original screenplay and developed it as a vehicle for Michelle Williams and his wife, Julianne Moore.
Isabel (Williams) runs an orphanage in India. When a wealthy philanthropist Theresa (Moore) is interested in donating millions of dollars, she insists that Isabel travel to New York to discuss the deal with her. Begrudgingly, she makes the journey, only to find herself invited to the wedding of Theresa’s daughter, Grace, played by Abby Quinn (who also performs the beautiful theme song). Isabel starts to realize that these people are not complete strangers, and Theresa’s interest in donating has some dark reasoning behind it.
Freundlich has eschewed any urge to hurry the story along, choosing instead to maintain the slow burn for which Scandinavian films are renowned. Tension builds inexorably, and every little twist turns it up a notch. He deftly avoids cliche and allows the dramatic tension to tell its own story, without embellishment or exaggeration. This is a beautifully nuanced and paced piece of cinema.
Moore, as usual, is a walking masterclass in acting. Williams is outstanding as Isabel, projecting some of the most visceral emotions with pure authenticity and no tricksy moves. As Theresa’s husband Oscar, Billy Crudup holds his own, and Abby Quinn shows some impressive emotional range as Grace.
Julio Macat’s cinematography hits just the right note, helping the story to unfold, and there is some wonderful drone photography in the Indian shots.
It is easy to see why this was chosen to open Sundance this year. A powerhouse cast, three strong female roles, a sophisticated screenplay and a gripping story make this a gold-standard exemplar of why we love the movies.
After the Wedding opens on October 24th.