By Alex McPherson
An earnest tribute to St. Louis and the people who live there, St. Louis native Nate Myers’ “After We’re Over” is a beautifully filmed love story, featuring a star-making turn from Adrienne Rose White.
One year after a devastating breakup, social justice activist Zelzah (Adrienne Rose White) gets a call from her ex, an abstract artist named Sazerac (Chris Mollica), who moved to Long Island. She reluctantly agrees to meet up with him for coffee, and the duo wind up traversing St. Louis together — visiting iconic landmarks like the Arch, the City Museum and the Missouri Botanical Garden — while reflecting on the highs and lows of their relationship.
As they visit their old haunts, the film turns back the clock to illuminate shared moments from their romantic past, creating a melancholic, trancelike flow throughout, as both characters evaluate the time they spent together, ultimately trying to determine whether or not to try again.
Although the central narrative is fairly standard, “After We’re Over” successfully captures the pulsing core of its central dynamic and shines as a love letter to a place that deserves more cinematic representation. For non-St. Louisans, there’s still universal themes at play, revolving around co-dependence and independence, the weight of societal expectations, the messy nature of memory, and the importance of authoring one’s own future.
With flashbacks galore, “After We’re Over” almost feels impressionistic, focused on conveying moods and feelings above all else. Indeed, while this approach robs the material of opportunities to sit with these characters during quieter scenes, the film plays like a dewy-eyed ghost story. Sometimes, Zelzah and Sazerac can literally see their old selves, fondly remembering those instances where all anxieties faded away and they just enjoyed each other’s company. As they slowly rekindle their old dynamic and explore a city with a troubled history but holding promise for what’s yet to come, we simultaneously watch them drift apart in the past, unearthing details about what happened between them.
Cinematographer Thaïs Castralli’s camera films the characters’ surroundings with an affectionate gaze. Stylized, red and blue lighting during key discussions provides an effective backdrop to the push-pull dynamics at play — a tug-of-war between comfort and fearful uncertainty.
It doesn’t hurt that White and Mollica give strong, authentic performances as the two leads. White is downright wonderful as Zelzah — a deeply empathetic woman who wants the best for her loved ones and for St. Louis, but doesn’t have an adequate support system to weather doubt and anxiety. White is such an energetic, expressive performer that Zelzah radiates vitality and passion for what she holds dear. Myers wisely recognizes her scene-stealing ability, pausing the action to focus on her face as she delivers dialogue, slam poetry-style, regarding the city’s economic inequality and grief from her own difficult past. Mollica is also exceptional, but Sazerac isn’t as interesting as Zelzah, embodying the sort of “troubled artist facing an existential crisis” archetype that falls into convention. Mollica has solid comedic timing, though, and his chemistry with White is apparent from their first conversation onwards.
The pair’s dialogue — aiming for lyricism — is intermittently sappy and pretentious (cue eyerolls from phrases like “Do you think we leave energy wherever we go?”), but more often than not poetically apt, adding weight to the couple’s exchanges that symbolically stretches across St. Louis’ own turbulent streets. At times, it feels sensual, spoken by White with smooth, performative cadences that immediately capture attention, setting aside the words’ hit-or-miss impact.
As details about their breakup are gradually meted out, we see both characters adapt (or fail to adapt) in the present, which in theory should be compelling to watch unfold. Frustratingly, however, the 80-minute duration doesn’t always leave enough time for scenes to sink in, particularly during the emotionally fraught finale. A few flashbacks, like a scene involving a spaghetti taste test, aren’t essential to the tale at hand, adding levity to the mournful tone, yet remaining jarring.
Issues notwithstanding, St. Louisans owe it to themselves to check out “After We’re Over” whenever it finally finds a distributor. While Myers’ film doesn’t break the mold of similar romances, he has a keen cinematic eye, and White’s performance is so pure, heartfelt, and true, that it will win over even the most cynical among us.
“After We’re Over” is a 2020 romantic drama directed by Nate Myers. It stars Chris Mollica and Adrienne Rose White and runs 80 min. It premiered at the St. Louis International Film Festival on Nov. 13. Alex’s Grade: B