Review: Before/During/After

Year: 2021
Runtime: 83 minutes
Directors: Stephen Kunken and Jack Lewars
Writer: Finnerty Steeves
Stars: Finnerty Steeves, Jeremy Davidson

By Nicole Ackman

Stories about relationships falling apart can often be much more interesting than those about two people getting together. Looking at how a couple can attempt to make things work and ultimately fail often allows for more nuance than a more straightforward romance film does. “Before/During/After”(2021) is a very fresh and original take on a relationship movie from directors Stephen Kunken and Jack Lewars. Written and starred in by Finnerty Steeves, it follows Jennie as her fifteen year marriage comes to an end and she figures out how to move on.  The story is told in a somewhat non-linear fashion, jumping around from David (Jeremy Davison) and Jennie’s happy years together to them getting a divorce. The audience spends the first section of the film trying to piece together the timeline of Jennie and David’s relationship, which immediately forces them to be engaged with the story.  It’s a clever way to provide us not only with the big moments of their relationship, but with cute little moments from their happier period that make the audience care more about the couple. Plus, it’s twice as heartbreaking to see a scene in which Jennie questions David about another woman when it comes immediately after them writing down their life goals together many years before.  As the story unfolds, we watch as David’s interactions with other women and Jennie’s desire to be a mother starts to put strain on them as a couple. Alongside the relationship drama is a sensitive and compassionate look at a woman trying to have a baby later in life and having complications. We watch the couple go through marriage counseling and try to deal with their own careers as they fall apart.  One of the best things about the movie is how it intertwines Jennie’s struggles in her career as a theatre actress in her late thirties. Steeves is herself a theatre and television actress which brings an authenticity to the way she writes the role of Jennie. The film is partially framed through Jennie attending an audition for a character that hits a little too close to home for her: a woman who is struggling with her relationship ending and must find herself and her strength.  Another thing that sets “Before/During/After” apart from other films like it is the way that it is infused with humor. In reality, there are always funny moments even in dark times and this film does a great job at being comedic without ever trivializing what Jennie and David are going through. Instead, it finds a lot of its humor from its side characters including the multiple therapists and counselors that they see.  Jennie’s friends also provide a lot of comedy, particularly as they try to encourage her to put herself out there again after her divorce. It’s refreshing to see a story about a relationship ending in which rather than completely falling apart, a woman leans on her friends and puts her life back together.  The whole cast is great, but it’s Steeves who is the standout with a very moving and emotive lead performance. The film is well-made, with this lovely indie feel, and does a great job at capturing the vibe of New York City without overplaying it. But it’s the ability to have elements of humor alongside heartbreak that make “Before/During/After” a standout amongst other relationship movies.  “Before/During/After” is now available to stream on Amazon Prime. 

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