If you’re an avid watcher of British television it’s likely that Joanna Scanlan will be a familiar face, although there’s a chance you might struggle to place her. The Welsh actor is probably most famous for playing the much put-upon Terri Coverley in The Thick of It, as well as being nominated for a BAFTA for her performance in Getting On. On the big screen she’s mostly had smaller roles, but in After Love she gives a leading performance which no one could possibly overlook.
Mary Hussain (Scanlan) converted to Islam when she married her husband (Nasser Memarzia). Now in their 60s, the couple live a quiet life in Dover. He’s a ship captain on the cross-Channel ferry so is regularly away. When he dies suddenly, she’s bereft. However, whilst going through his things she discovers that he has another woman in France. With no real plan in mind, Mary travels to Calais with the intention of confronting his lover (Nathalie Richard).
After Love works because director Aleem Khan keeps things simple. The focus is squarely on Mary. The camera lingers on Scanlan and she gives the performance of her life. She fills every gesture with a range of emotions. The story is straightforward but written in a way which allows the actors space to breathe. After Love doesn’t need to resort to melodrama or try and generate artificial tension. The situation speaks for itself. As does the acting masterclass delivered by its star.
After Love is in cinemas from 4 June.