After the Wedding (2019), starring Michelle Williams, Billy Crudup, and Julianne Moore, is a remake of the 2006 Danish film by the same name, about a woman who travels from India to New York in search of funds for her orphanage.
Williams’ character, Isabel, travels from India to New York to meet with Theresa (Moore) for funding for an orphanage where she works. Busy with wedding preparations, Theresa invites Isabel to her daughter’s upcoming wedding so they can get to know each other and discuss Isabel’s proposal for funding. It’s not ideal for Isabel. She’s in a rush to get back to India and keep a promise made to a young boy, Jai (Vir Pachisia), with whom she shares a special bond. Things change when Isabel attends the wedding and realizes she knows the bride’s father, Oscar (Crudup). What follows is a somewhat confusing story about philanthropy, family dynamics, marriage, life, lies, and secrets.
The actors in the film give great performances. I’d expect nothing less from Oscar, Tony, and Golden Globe-winning and nominated talent. There’s no question they delivered their performances the best they could’ve, but the material they were given left a bit to be desired.
I was uncomfortable at the start of the film because Isabel seems to feed into the “white savior” trope. When she leaves India for her trip, she starts listing several rules to an Indian woman who runs the orphanage, to which she tells Isabel something along the lines of “we survived a long time before you came, we’ll be fine after you leave.” Of course, Isabel feels a duty to the children she spends so much time with, but I didn’t like how she spoke to this woman like she would know more than her when this woman worked at this orphanage long before Isabel. Also, when Isabel tries to get her coworker/lover to go to New York in her place, she’s told that it “has to be her,” an insistence that doesn’t make sense later on in the story once the twist is revealed. Of all the people working in the orphanage, why Isabel and not the people who had lived there and worked with these kids long before she came? Even the flashbacks Isabel has to her time in India are awkwardly placed and take you out of the story. What’s meant to be a juxtaposition of her life in New York and India seems like a throwaway to remind you Isabel is “above it all” and only cares about her life in India, which is the basis for her whole character.
Theresa goes to great lengths to keep a secret which is later uncovered through no fault of her own. Once this secret is unleashed, her character goes to desperate measures to try to control things to make sense of her life. She micromanages everyone she interacts with as if they’re pawns in a game of chess and she expects to do all of this without having to talk about her secret. Each choice she makes is more perplexing than the last and seems to weaken her characterization set up in the First Act. Moore manages to make these choices somewhat more convincing, but to me, every decision she makes is odd and leaves the characters with equally as confusing reactions.
The biggest secret of the film and the twist that kicks off the Second Act is interesting. It’s not one I would’ve expected given the film’s start. The twist took an otherwise slow-paced film that seemed to be veering into a white savior film into a story that honestly has very little to do with the orphanage at all. At some point, it felt unnecessary even to show parts of Isabel’s life in India, if, in the end, it was going to mean so little to things overall. The same effect could’ve been achieved with an allusion to Isabel’s work without adding in shots of impoverished India to bolster an otherwise dull character. This twist also created some odd character dynamics and conflicts that were more perplexing than heartwarming.
While the performances were solid all around, the story made it hard to connect to the film, and it’s supposed message in a more meaningful way.
After the Wedding premieres in theaters August 9th.