A Review of Two Debut Films from Russell Harbaugh and Jordana Spiro
Love After Love
A largely dull and ineffectual film about the process of grief and a seemingly endorsement of either open relationships or what is demonstrably an exercise in infidelity. Russell Harbaugh delivers this first project of his with gusto deserving of a Netflix premiere. We’ve seen these types of film over and over and Love After Love is the embodiment of redundancy in the American film canon. While the music, set design, and cinematography is a largely competent spread, the writing is mostly worthless.
The comedy is distant and at best droll. The emotions hovers around the surface without the requisite competence to delve deeper. The sexual proclivities of the characters are wanting and strangely reminiscent of other useless recent films like The Land of Steady Habits that seems to glamorize old-age singleness as an avenue for easy sex. Only (some) of the female characters posses any sense of stability and strength; the men remaining prodigal drunks with anger management issues and an incapacity for fidelity and nerves. It’s unclear what the purpose of this film was, but with a run-time of 91 minutes, it’s a benefit that the audience doesn’t have to waste much time inventing one.
With the explosion of available formats to publish films, more and more incompetent projects will be released and critics don’t seem to have any bearing on what is actually a worthwhile release. This one is an easy miss.
Night Comes On
Unlike Love After Love, this film has weight in its attempt to grapple with the struggle of low-income community members to survive the elements of their circumstances and return to a semblance of normality alongside those they love. A serious film about family – in all of its horror and happiness – having traces of other art films from this year, especially We Are Animals & Madeline’s Madeline.
The film is about a young girl (Dominique Fishback – The Deuce) out on parole, who seems set on the prospect of killing her father for killing her mother years back. She is irreparably changed by her attachment to her younger sister, becomes a role model, and overcomes anger in the midst of the uncertainty of returning to prison.
Like Blindspotting, this film demonstrates deep elements of the plight of those struggling to return to the normalcy of society and a lesson for all to tread lightly on judging others when their circumstances have become indelibly rooted in their DNA. While the film judged objectively is not a masterwork deserving of its high-praise from critics (RT: 100%), it remains an important film reminiscent of better early works from Coogler with Fruitvale Station & Jenkins with Moonlight. While Jordana Spiro has much to prove, this film is a promising starting place for a seemingly able director/writer.