While their father Glenn (Gareth Williams) wages a traumatizing at-home battle with a terminal disease at a relatively young age, Chris (James Adomian) and his older brother Nicholas (Chris O’Dowd) try in their own ways to be there for their mother, Suzanne (Andie MacDowell). But as the family grapples with loss, both sons engage with the simultaneous mid-life pulls of their own struggles with careers, relationships, and emotional dysfunction.
Thrust directly into their literary New York milieu with no hand-holding, the characters come at us fully formed, feeling as real as people in our lives. These results are delivered the only way they could be: through impeccable craftsmanship and a palpable faith in cinema too-often lacking in this era of content- creation and binge-watching. From the uniformly excellent performances to the autumnal chill captured by cinematographer Chris Teague and the resonant score from David Shire, every element here shines.
It’s no surprise that Harbaugh’s first feature would deliver. His acerbic, assured short Rolling on the Floor Laughing (MdFF 2012) remains a decade’s best; the manic-depressive dynamo of a feature he co-wrote, The Mend (MdFF 2014), awaits astonished discovery by those who slept on it. But to have his promise confirmed with a directorial-debut feature on this level is a cause for celebration. Recalling Leigh’s High Hopes, Lonergan’s You Can Count on Me, Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters, and Claire Denis’ 35 Shots of Rum, this is as good as sophisticated adult dramas get. MdFF audiences will be some of the first in the world to see Love After Love, which premiered just days ago at Tribeca. Don’t miss it. (Eric Allen Hatch)