Ryan Whitaker’s After

Countless films give their visual interpretation of what purgatory and the afterlife may look like, and Ryan Whitaker’s After paints a misty, darkly entertaining tale of two souls stuck in the great beyond who must work together to discern their situation and escape. As a greyhound bus ploughs through the rural night, it’s two lone passengers (Steven Strait, Karolina Wydra) are strangers who flirt briefly before the bus takes a wrong turn and crashes horribly, sending them both hurtling out the windows. When they awaken they are trapped in some sort of deserted, hazy twilight zone version of their hometown, as a curtain of ominous black vapour surrounds the area on all sides, walling them in. It soon becomes clear that they are both stuck in comas out there in the real world and inside this sort of, spiritual simulation if you will, they have to delicately find a way out by delving deep into their respective pasts, processing painful memories, finding the right key (literally and metaphorically) to escape this hovering inter-zone and either pass on to the other side in ethereal form or reawaken once again in the physical realm to continue this incarnation. It’s heavy, philosophical stuff that is given the somewhat surface level thriller treatment yet still manages to be just metaphysical enough to keep me intrigued. There’s a terrifying Stranger Things type monster that hunts them and is clearly there to represent the trauma in both their pasts manifesting in tangible form to haunt them. There’s a romance angle that I’m not sure if I altogether bought but the film and actors seem assured enough in and some of the finer plot turns could have been more richly developed, I found myself wishing that this concept could be done as a long form 8 episode miniseries or something, but the film serves well enough as a perfectly decent told story with a truly fascinating concept. Good times.

-Nate Hill

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