The Here After (3 stars)

The Here After

Suspenseful if overly restrained Swedish drama from debut helmer Magnus von Horn

Swedish helmer Magnus von Horn’s slow-burning and tense first feature The Here After (Efterskalv) poses provocative moral questions concerning the punishment and aftermath of a horrific act committed by a teenage boy. The writer-director twists the story into a button-pushing examination of pent-up sorrow, guilt and aggression that plays its hand in a precise manner by not revealing too much too soon.

We meet John (singer Ulrik Munther – turning in a notable performance as a young man on the edge) on his release from a secure facility, but are not given details of the crime he has committed until the midway point. He has done something terrible, that much we can discern, and as his father Martin (Mats Blomgren) drives him back to the family farm – where he’s reunited with his younger brother Filip (Alexander Nordgren) – the camera examines this duo from behind, as it hints at the history of violence and ill communication that will slowly sneak back up on them throughout the course of the film.

The Here After asks us to sympathise with John, who is bullied, beaten and given the side-eye by everyone in his small community except another teen, Malin (Loa Ek), who is new to the neighbourhood. She shrugs her shoulders at his past actions while she fixes his moped for him, and is even attracted to his dark side.

The film conjures up a strong sense of unease in the most mundane of situations, particularly an oppressively quiet dinner with John’s all male family, including his cantankerous grandfather (played by Wieslaw Komasa), that speaks volumes in its silence and creates a palpable sense of dread. There’s danger in the air that threatens to detonate at any point and when it finally does it’s a highly charged and bellowing explosion of emotion. This is a promising debut that nevertheless suffers a little from its withholding of passion until the final throes, and thus feels a tad too premeditated and unnatural by design.

Selected release from Fri 11 Mar.

The Here After

  • 3 stars
  • 2015
  • Swede / Poland / France
  • 1h 42min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Magnus von Horn
  • Cast: Ulrik Munther, Loa Ek, Mats Blomgren
  • UK release: 11 March 2016

Teenage John (Munther) is released from a secure facility and finds it difficult to re-enter his small community; only another teen, Malin (Ek) seems to be at east with his dark past. Precise, provocative and slow-burning debut feature from von Horn, very promising but flawed by withholding passion for too long.