Written by Anna Harrison
Most mothers will do almost anything for their child. In After Class, this includes stealing money to pay for school. An unnamed single mother (Youfeng Zhang) works as a janitor at a school, cleaning the messes the kids leave behind as her daughter, Sumin (Yiyi Sun), watches her peers from afar, unable to join in since her mother cannot afford the tuition. Sun brings a natural wide-eyed innocence to Sumin, instantly endearing us to her, and Zhang sells the mother’s increasing desperation as she tries to provide the life her child deserves despite lacking the adequate funds.
As it turns out, some children will do almost anything for their mother. A small white lie about the source of their money results in drastic consequences for Sumin and her mother, and the conclusion to the film, despite its inevitability, is devastating.
After Class is an easy film to look at, with its shots often framed beautifully by the bleak school hallways, the mother small in the distance as she mops the floors. Some plot beats feel a little too easy or contrived, but the strong performances and strong emotional current throughout the film ensures that we don’t want to think to hard about plausibility, and After Class successfully—and horrifically—brings to life the realities of socioeconomic privilege and the sacrifices we make for family.
After Class Trailer