AFTER DARKNESS * USA 2019 Dir: Baton Silva. 87 mins
The film follows a dysfunctional entitled family in an attempt to survive in their country estate after an unknown catastrophe causes the sun to die and plunge the world into darkness and cold. The family appears to be waiting for a “rescue” from an unseen government contact. It becomes apparent very early on that this is not a happy family. Estranged and bitter, the family try to reconcile their grudges.
The characters are made up of the Patriarch Raymond and the Matriarch Georgina, who have 3 children Clara, Ray and Fred. Fred has brought along his heavily pregnant French girlfriend Margot. Through the very slow and heavily secretive plot you gather snippets of information, the family is estranged mostly due to Raymond’s overbearing, belittling behaviour and superiority complex, while Georgina has multiple hysterical episodes pertaining to the somewhat unspoken about, other daughter, Abbey.
Margot seems paranoid and defensive from the first scene which starts with little context or backstory and jumps right into the unformattable and ambiguous story. This opening scene of a pretentious, wealthy family having dinner starts an ongoing trend for the patriarch of the family who seems to walk into a scene, shout and belittle the family members, rant about survival and hope then storm out leaving the family and the audience confused and puzzled as to why.
From opening scene to artistically open ended finale this film gives little to the audience. Each scene plays out with very long dull conversations that have little to do with the current situation, the issues with the sun are almost never touched upon and the audience is left to come up with their own ideas as to why this event seems to be happening. Each minute that passes I found myself losing interest and having little sympathy for this family, each character seems unmotivated and heavily flawed with little to entice the audience into investing into their survival. No one seems to have much in the way of survival instinct, as the film goes on you get a sense that the world is coming to an end but not in a clear way. There seems to be a jump from comfortable country getaway to let me murder this animal for food by candlelight so we can eat.
Although this film tries to ever increase the tension, even adding a little home invasion scene for a brief change of pace, it does little in the way to invoke a strong reaction from the viewer other than raise questions and cause confusion.
About 3/4s of the way through and I was still no closer to understanding the direction of this film nor where it was headed. I found myself wondering what the target audience is for this type of film and if the writers or director had really thought it through. Although I class this as a drama I would certainly not say it was a thriller nor a sci-fi film.
Dull, uneventful and forgettable. In short, this film was hard work to watch and follow, the characters lack any interest and the pace is painfully slow. The concept on paper is a great one, had there been an emphasis on the sci-fi side of this it may have kept my attention more; why was the sun dying? Why were they struggling to survive? Why was the father close with the senator and why did he owe him one? What could have been a tense, sci-fi thriller fizzled into nothing more than a bland unconvincing drama about a depressed and estranged family doing little to improve their situation. Too many questions went unanswered. Too many scenes left me unimpressed and bored. By attempting to make everything a mystery this film pushes its audience away rather than drawing them in with interest.
On a positive note, I think the actors did a great job despite their very bland roles and it was shame they didn’t have more depth of story to really push themselves into. There were brief moments of artistic camera work that just fell short of whatever it was they were trying to accomplish.
I will also say that although my review may seem harsh, I found myself needing to discuss it at length with others. After some thought, reflection and discussion, I looked up the poem “Darkness” by Lord Byron from 1816 AD which this film is said to be based upon and I found myself changing my view and perspective quite drastically. I find that this film is not a Sci-Fi, Drama, thriller at all but a metaphoric representation of the poem which draws upon the darkness as suffering and pain in one’s own self. This family are in darkness, they feel darkness they live darkness. They are all toxic and void in their surroundings. The film draws scenes from the poems, one in particular about a dog that didn’t make sense until I read this poem. I would certainly say that there may be individuals out there that will appreciate this metaphoric and ambiguous film for what it is trying to be and I would say if you intend to watch this, also read the poem and some of the confusion you are at first left with becomes slightly less. All in all, a good premise but poorly executed.
Review by Rachel Simpson