The World After Us

Directed by: Louda Ben Salah-Cazanas
Distributed by: Under the Milky Way

Written by Michael Clawson

A promising young writer falls in love and faces economic precarity in “The World After Us,” a slight romantic drama from France that irritates more than it endears.

Libidi (Aurélien Gabrielli) is leaving his parent’s charming café in Lyon when Elisa (Louise Chevillotte) catches his eye. He makes a move on her by asking for a cigarette while she’s having coffee with a friend; she responds warmly, and they start up a relationship in a hurry. It’s a flimsy and unpersuasive love connection that writer/director Louda Ben Salah-Cazanas establishes, and it doesn’t become any more convincing as the film wears on.

Libidi and Elisa’s relationship takes off just as Libidi lands a publishing deal, which gives him six months to complete his first novel. That proves to be a major struggle. With no steady income from his artistic endeavors, Libidi only barely makes ends meet as a food-delivery worker. To move out of the cramped apartment where he lives with a roommate (a character that the movie cruelly turns into the butt of jokes) and into a place of his own with Elisa, Libidi is forced to devote time and energy he would otherwise spend writing towards making a bigger paycheck. He turns to petty scams, like selling his iPad and telling his insurance company it was stolen, before eventually landing a minimum wage job at an eyewear store.

The movie’s formal elements tend to clash. Salah-Cazanas’ intimately verité approach involves keeping his camera close to his actors, which works well enough, but the stabbing of strings on the film’s score suggests a level of dread that doesn’t suit the material. There are also jarring tonal shifts when conflict erupts between Libidi and Elisa out of nowhere. And then there’s the asymmetry between the film’s co-stars: Chevillotte is a magnetic performer that the movie gives too little to do, while much of what Gabrielli does as Libidi just looks like self-pity. “The World After Us” is concerned with the pressures of financial instability, creativity, and relationships in the modern world, but is too rushed and lacking in charm to make an impression.

“The World After Us” Trailer

Michael Clawson is a member of the Seattle Film Critic Society you can follow his passion for film on Letterboxd.

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