FILM REVIEW: Before/During/After

Rating: ★★★★★

Breakups are never easy, especially when it’s a marriage. Sadly divorce is still such an ugly word in our culture, with plenty of shame attached to it.

Before/During/After explores the gruelling process of a failing marriage, and how you can feel like you’re losing your sense of self as you struggle to navigate what’s happening to you.

The film follows middle aged woman Jennie Lonergan (Finnerty Steeves), a New York City theatre actress who is going through a divorce from her husband of 15 years, David. (Jeremy Davidson)

Jennie is humiliated when she finds out David has been having an affair, and despite trying out couples therapy, they realise their marriage is beyond repair and that a divorce is on the cards.

This difficult storyline is interspersed with scenes of Jennie auditioning for a play, with the material hitting a nerve and feeling a little too close to home in some cases. Nevertheless, she persists, and goes through her audition anyway.

But the remarkable thing about this film is that it’s not all doom and gloom, and uses humour to illustrate the complexities of it all. Jennie’s emotional turmoil is beautifully acted by Steeves, and sometimes you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Before/During/After has some laugh out loud moments, especially when it comes to the multitude of therapists visited throughout the film. They each have their own weird behaviours and quirks, and end up being a complete waste of time.

I loved that parody on how people might see therapists, and how sometimes we have to go through many we dislike or don’t click with in order to truly feel comfortable opening up. With so many therapists out there, you’re bound to encounter ones that don’t work for you.

I honestly thought this film was a triumph, and perfectly illustrates what it’s like to have a relationship and years of your life crumble before your eyes. A breakup or divorce is often a grieving process, and rebuilding your life is never easy, and the film explores this with such a clever and sharp eye.

Many of us feel like a breakup is the end of the world, like we’ve lost the love of our lives, or we did something wrong, and the film explores these messages we direct at ourselves and why it’s possible to bounce back after a terrible event.

Before/During/After is captivating, you spend the film wanting Jennie to succeed and she feels like a real person, which is a testament to both Finnerty Steeves’ acting and writing. I’m not sure if she was based on anyone or if Jennie is entirely fictional, but either way, she felt believable.

The film also isn’t afraid to show the very real emotions experienced by someone going through a divorce, both negative and positive, and you find yourself feeling sympathetic not judgemental. Not all of her behaviour is necessarily mature or ‘sensible’, but that’s what makes it so real.

It also highlights the importance of a good support network, whether that’s family, friends, or anyone else important to you. Truly, you’re never alone and there’ll always be a shoulder to cry on even when you feel like it’s you against the world.

Visually, it’s also very impressive, and a lot of effort has been put into the framing and locations of the film. It feels slick, transportative, and you really do escape into New York City, and the stories we’re following. I also enjoyed the soundtrack too, as it reflected the emotional rollercoaster.

If you loved Marriage Story, I would highly recommend Before/During/After for offering a similarly compassionate lens on the divorce process. They’re both very different films with very different circumstances, so you’ll get a unique perspective by watching them.

So far, I think Before/During/After is my favourite film from the festival, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Before/During/After is currently playing at festivals, and I saw it as a digital screener during Greenpoint Film Festival.

You can watch the trailer below.

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