Have you ever been to a place that makes you happy or makes your heart ache every time you go there? Maybe that place is your hometown. With former St. Louisan Nate Myers’ character driven After We’re Over, iconic St. Louis images and heartache-suggesting music underscore themes of longing for home and fearing a sense of loss.
A passionate protest marcher and grant writer, Zelzah Robinson (Adrienne Rose White) fears she isn’t doing enough to make a social difference. On one discouraging Saturday morning, she gets a phone call, freaks at the Caller-ID but can’t resist picking up. That phone call from her ex-boyfriend, Sazerac (Chris Mollica), an abstract painter, triggers flashbacks to a happy relationship gone sadly wrong.
Sazerac’s and Zelzah’s After We’re Over world unfolds at a meticulous pace. At first the characters seem a bit awkward with each other and somewhat with their dialogue. However, when Zelzah and Sazerac take off to see iconic St. Louis landmarks, the director-actor dynamic clicks—we’re absorbed in their world–and the film just works.
We see Zelzah and Sazerac fall in love in the Botanical Garden, and stroll downtown city streets in view of the Gateway Arch. At times they lament what went wrong with their relationship, at others argue over what makes a city great. They both want to be relevant: Sazerac, an abstract painter, wants to “have done something” by the time he dies, she wants to make a difference in her hometown.
Over the course of a day After We’re Over cleverly reverses time; the couple comes to appreciate each other in the present while they fall apart in the past. In a fun moment to watch for: the way that Zelzah and Sazerac eat pasta will make you grin. Flashbacks add character depth and provide good social-event context to their relationship but would be more compelling if they also pushed the story forward.
The film does a good job of blending personal conflict with contemporary social issues: Zelzah works for Unify St. Louis and bemoans that she’s not doing more. In one of Zelzah’s best scenes, she declines to let Sazerac inside her house. He’s a little pissed off and asks “…when you come [back] out can you please just be better?” The subtext of this is noteworthy.
The “be better” theme is repeated throughout the movie: it’s significant to their relationship as well as St. Louis’s social issues: while recurring ghost-like images (dancing on the table at a University City Loop-type bar) could be a metaphor for better relationship times, their squabbling over North Side beauty, past and present, addresses the St. Louis struggle for economic equality.
The movie avoids taking itself too seriously. Writer/Director Myers lightens the mood at just the right moments: In a scene in an architecturally stunning building, Sazerac asks Zelzah: “Do you think we leave energy wherever we go?” Zelzah replies: “That sounds like some woo woo shit,” but goes on to say: “There’s definitely places that when I return to them, I can feel electricity flowing thru me. When I see the Arch, I get one of those kindsa smiles where you can feel your whole cheeks.”
St. Louis is a diverse city, rich in culture, literature and music. Its people and places bring joy to the characters in After We’re Over, but also a fear of what comes next.
After We’re Over is a complex film of love and belonging that should play especially well in college towns across the U.S. and in Bohemian-vibe-like neighborhoods like St. Louis’s University City.
Filmmaker kudos: to Nathan Myers and Matthew Head for setting the tone from the first note. To Actress/ Associate Producer Adrienne Rose White; look for her to rise in fame. To an up-and-coming female team of Cinematographer Thaïs Castralli (for tight, focused, almost-emotional frame inclusion), Production Designer Parker Chase (well done sets and lighting design) and Adetia Alexander and Ambra Robinson for stunning hairstyling.
After We’re Over screens during the St. Louis Film Festival at the Tivoli theatre on November 13, at 3:30 p.m.