Director: Michelle Ouellet
Writers: Michelle Ouellet, Nicholas Carella, Graham Coffeng
Cast: Graham Coffeng, Ali Liebert, Nicholas Carella, David Milchard, Jodi Balfour, Christina Sicoli, Emma Lahana, Peter Benson, Erica Carroll
Actress Ali Liebert spoke about her film Afterparty in an interview we did close to three months ago, prior to the film’s world premiere at the Whistler Film Festival. I’ve been wanting to see it ever since, and I finally got my opportunity as it plays in Toronto at the 2014 Canadian Film Fest. At first I didn’t know what to expect, but after watching the film, I could comfortably lean back in my chair with a smile across my face.
The film follows Charlie (Graham Coffeng), a young man who, after serving as best man at his brother’s wedding, organizes an after party with “the fellas,” his high school friends from fifteen years ago. The reunion serves both as an opportunity for Charlie to reconnect with childhood friends and to reflect on the past, with hopes of clarifying the future. What he soon comes to understand is that no matter what path people take, they will all share the same troubles when they are in their thirties.
While the film had a story and a script, the actors were given the opportunity to improvise. In fact, much of the film has ad-libbed dialogue. This point is important to note because there is strong chemistry between each character, which is further enhanced by their actions and interactions. The story itself is a partially crafted foundation, providing a flow to the film and its activities. At first, one may not understand where everything is going, but one quickly realizes that the focus is not on the activities around but the characters within. The elements of an after party – drinking, games, chit-chatting with friends, etc – all exist, but they act more as background elements than catalysts. The characters themselves create the chain of events that move the story forward. It’s this very strategy that makes the story so very interesting.
The performances in the film are rather interesting. Coupling the fact that much of their dialogue is improvised, an audience is presented with quite a few wacky characters. There are a few characters that don’t quite hit the mark, but by the same token, there are some characters one can easily relate to. Graham Coffeng’s performance as Charlie is quite splendid. Here is a character one can immediately connect to on a personal level. Ali Liebert’s Tracy is a perfect example of the successful, clear-headed friend everyone wants in their lives. Thanks to Liebert’s performance, one cannot help but love her character. Each and every performer could be listed one by one and justified; however, each artist has brought a very different individual to the screen, and whether they work or not as part of the story, they are certainly relatable and interesting nonetheless.
One aspect of the film that has been kept to a bare minimum is the cinematography. It’s simple, not overdone, and constantly focused on the performances. The overall direction is quite lovely; one is able to sit back, relax, and watch the drama unfold, but then also see the broken pieces fix themselves as the film concludes. The music is soothing rather than ear popping, and cliche “party activities” don’t even exist. It’s a gathering of sophisticated, successful people who are revisiting the good times from their high school days, and the film is crafted in a way that delivers that message.
I really did not know what to expect of Afterparty. I genuinely hoped that it wasn’t a cliched party movie, and I’m glad it isn’t. What an audience is presented with is a simple reflection on life. The film brings up questions that we, as young adults, don’t necessarily want to ask ourselves. This film isn’t one that hopes to rattle one’s mind with complex theories or excite with action, love, and what not. Rather, it’s an opportunity for one to simply sit back and be given an enjoyable reality check on life.
Afterparty is the Closing Night film for the 2014 Canadian Film Fest. The film plays March 22 at 8:45 PM at The Royal Cinema.