Afterlife (15)

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Review byMatthew Turner11/08/2004

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 105 mins

Effectively a sort of low-budget Scottish Rain Man, this is an enjoyable drama with strong performances from its leads.

Alison Peebles’ feature-length directorial debut AfterLife was a hit with audiences at the Edinburgh Film Festival last year, so it’s good to see it finally getting a proper release, particularly as films like this tend to go straight onto TV (e.g. Tamzin Outhwaite’s previous Audience Award winner Out Of Control). Shot on digital video for a mere £250,000, AfterLife is firmly in the tradition of films such as Rain Man or Jaco Van Dormael’s The Eighth Day.

Ambitious Journalist Cares For Sister

Kevin McKidd stars as Kenny Brogan, an ambitious journalist on the brink of being offered a prestigious job in the States. However, his plans are put on hold when his mother, May (Lindsay Duncan) suffers a fall and Kenny has to temporarily look after his sister, Roberta (Paula Sage), who has Down’s Syndrome.

Having no other option, Kenny takes Roberta with him on a business trip, with predictably catastrophic results. Frustrated and angry, Kenny can’t wait to dump Roberta back on his mother, but when tragedy strikes they are both forced to reassess their future.

Newcomer Sage A Standout

Kevin McKidd turns in a typically excellent performance as Kenny – he’s a likeable enough actor to ensure that we never lose sympathy for his character, even during Kenny’s more selfish moments. There’s also strong support from both Lindsay Duncan and Shirley Henderson, as Ruby, Kenny’s sometime girlfriend and the curator of an Art Gallery.

However, the stand-out is newcomer Paula Sage, who delivers a performance that is moving, funny and infuriating in equal measure.

The script is extremely good and doesn’t settle for easy options – for example, it’s quite clear that Roberta would be something of a handful, so Kenny’s dilemma is entirely understandable. It doesn’t go out of its way to make Roberta loveable, either; she’s as sulky and ill-behaved as any teenager.

The script does give her lots of good lines, though – her bolshy comebacks to Kenny provide a lot of the film’s humour. Where the film works less well is in trying to explore ideas about euthanasia (the story Kenny is working on), as this quickly gets swamped by the central story-line.

In short, AfterLife is an enjoyable drama that’s worth seeing for both the performances and its decent script. It would also make a worthy companion piece to either Rain Man or the more fantastical The Eighth Day.

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Content updated: 26/09/2015 06:47

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