Throughout After, the filmmakers crank the trials of the film’s Valentino family up to 11, sans irony or subversion. The members of this clan are less flesh-and-blood beings than composites of derivative personality traits: milquetoast Christian (Pablo Schreiber) tries in vain to keep the family contracting business afloat without the help of grumpy father Mitchell (John Doman); underachieving Nicky (Adam Scarimbolo) frequently skirts the law between bar fights and one-night stands; and all that seemingly concerns Maxine (Sabrina Gennarino) is when her long-term boyfriend will finally pop the question. (Gennarino, also the film’s screenwriter, has somewhat self-indulgently fashioned Maxine as the story’s purest character and consistent voice of reason.) Meanwhile, the matriarch of the family, Norma (Kathleen Quinlan), tends to her gardening and greets the crushing of a flower as tragedy, no doubt a sign of the hysteric fragility that informs Mitchell’s plan to withhold the death of another daughter, Samantha, from her.
Mitchell’s elaborate plot eventually dominates the story, and at the expense of Gennarino and director Pieter Gaspersz resolving any of the film’s other narrative threads. The paterfamilias feels entitled to his pompous authority due to his conviction that family means everything, even though, while believing he’s holding his clan together by keeping Samantha’s death a secret, he’s equally at home with putting a wedge between him and his children, especially Christian (through sneaky business finagling within the contracting company) and Maxine (in his dissatisfaction with her boyfriend). The film assumes that, only if spoken enough times, the Valentinos’ incessant belief that everything must come down to family will have a resounding thematic effect. But in the constant blaring of Mitchell’s ostensibly good intentions there’s only the sense of the filmmakers condescendingly ribbing their characters, as in the flippant sight gag featuring a wholesome decoration spelling “Family” on a wall behind the Valentinos in the midst of a major feud.