Can you make a decent, engaging sci-fi film for $30,000? Surely spending something obscene like $152 million is the only way to make a good film? Well, no and After We Leave (and it’s committed cast) prove it.
Filmed mostly on weekends and evenings, writer and director Aleem Hossian has managed to create a film that is not only engaging, well written and well acted but also one that easily outstrips (at least in my opinion) a large proportion of the multi-million dollar Hollywood pap.
As the movie starts and there’s silence followed by an alarm clock, soft focus grass fields and a distinct absence of background music I thought I’d be in for a very slow arty movie the watching of which would be as comfortable as digesting a brick (whole). But I was about to be proved very, very wrong (not about the brick – that wouldn’t be comfortable).
After We Leave follows Jack – Brian Silverman (“SWAT”, “24 (TV)”) as he returns to LA and attempts to track down his wife, Venessa, whom he abandoned six years before.
As the film progresses Jack’s not so shiny history becomes more apparent – he’s no hero but he’s aware of that and Silverman portrays the character of the rough-around-the-edges loner with powerful sincerity.
Silverman’s ability to take a character from loner to lover to repentant sinner as he guides us through the minefield that is Jack’s hometown deserve much praise.
Hossian’s directing and script writing was also no doubt part of this convincing portrayal, so kudos to him as well.
Of course there is the bad guy Eric, Clay Wilcox (“Twin Peaks (TV)”, “The Practise”), but he’s not your typical boss-type surrounded by solid blocks of suit-wearing beef, but don’t be drawn in; his is an understated evil and Wilcox plays it well.
The few fight sequences in the movie are well directed and genuinely look like real fights – not the smooth, choreographed Hollywood type but the drunken brawl outside a Weatherspoons at 3am on a Tuesday type – and that for me suits this style of film much better.
Lexi, Anita Leeman (“Speed Kills”, “Road To Hell”), is the films simmering temptress and the chemistry between her and Jack brings up multiple moral dilemmas for him and credit again to Silverman who convincingly explores this visually more than vocally. Leeman plays her part well enough too, though there isn’t really much for her to get her teeth into (except Jack).
Given the current trend towards unabashed nudity, other directors I’m sure would have leapt at the chance to have Leeman strut around in her birthday suit, Hossian though doesn’t loose focus, the odd scene of skin is subtle and what’s more adds to the story. Kudos again. (Call me a prude I don’t care).
After We Leave isn’t sci-fi “heavy”, it isn’t a rollercoaster thrill ride of action and don’t expect to see tons of spacecraft and alien worlds either because it isn’t that kind of movie.
The sci-fi here is very much in the background; technology is apparent but not overwhelming – it’s not there to add bells and whistles to the story, what’s important is Jack.
With such a tiny budget you’d be forgiven for thinking the special effects might be a bit ‘2nd rate’ but no, somehow, against the odds, the team have produced effects which look polished, appropriate and convincing.
But it’s not only the effects which are nice, there’s some really beautiful art direction in the movie as well, the shot of the rockets firing off into space particularly.
As the movie draws to what seems like an inevitable conclusion you’re treated to a montage of memories with typical rousing music but Hossian hasn’t got lazy and stopped there; there’s something else he wants to show you…
There’s a temptation when making a film I think to throw all your ideas at it and especially with a micro budget it ends up looking cheap. The After We Leave team certainly didn’t fall into this trap and the result they achieved in the end is frankly astounding.