When John (Ulrik Munther) is released from prison, he returns hoe to his father and younger brother, hoping to carry on with his life and forget the past. The trouble is, memories are long in the small town he lives in, and although John may have paid for his crimes, it is clear he is not yet forgiven.
Magnus von Horn’s film, screening at Director’s Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival is a look at forgiveness and regret. The film is a slow burning character study that brings Mads Mikkelsen’s recent film The Hunt to mind – although the circumstances are reversed here – and is held together by a surprising performance from Ulrik Munther as John.
As John Ulrik Munther makes the character a quiet and pensive one. Initially seeming shocked that he has returned home, and back to his old school, Munther allows John’s mask to slip as the film goes on, revealing a young man who, although sympathetic in many ways, is also violent and rather frightening. The rest of the cast is made up of Sven Ahlström, Mats Blomgren, Stefan Cronwall, Loa Ek, Wieslaw Komasa, Ellen Mattsson and Inger Nilsson.
The story, written by Magnus von Horn, is immediately reminiscent of The Hunt, where an entire town turns on a man because of rumour and misinformation. Here, however, the facts are confirmed, so rather than The Here After being a film about mob mentality, it becomes one of forgiveness, and whether it must be earned or simply granted. The film is slow to begin with, with John simply drifting through his life and taking the abuse doled out to him. In the final act, however, John is spurred into action, and his true feelings and regrets about his actions are revealed.
As director Magnus von Horn allows the tension and rage to build in the film, occasionally allowing small incidents to break through and shatter the seeming calm that has built up around John and his family. The film is an exercise in tension building and suppressed rage, and when it is released this is both a relief and the start of a whole new set of tensions. The performances are strong, particularly Munther as John.
In all, The Here After is a methodical examination of guilt and forgiveness in a small town. The story is a little familiar, and the pacing sometimes excruciating, but there is a human story at he heart of the film, embodied by Munther’s performance.