A directorial debut short film by renowned photographer Misan Harriman, Netflix’s ‘The After’ is all about grief and healing. It follows the journey of British man Dayo, who just wants to spend some quality time with his daughter Lauren and his wife. But due to a horrific incident, he witnesses his family die in front of him. Clearly shaken by these events, Dayo now needs to figure out how he can move on with his life after something like this has happened to him.
With stellar performances from David Oyelowo, Jessica Plummer and Dominique Tipper, the drama short deals with too many emotions of grief, shock, acceptance and the healing process within its short runtime. It’s a story about a great tragedy, but more about what happens to those who are left behind to deal with it. Some of these emotions feel so real and relatable that it naturally makes you question if the story is based on true events.
The After Discusses Grief and the Process of Healing
‘The After’ is not based on a true story. For his first short film, Harriman provided the story himself, which was converted into a screenplay with the help of John Julius Schwabach. This short, which has even qualified for the Oscars, is an attempt by Harriman to share a story about healing and the different ways in which the protagonist’s struggle will speak to viewers dealing with their own demons and trying to heal from them.
Stories like this seem so familiar and true because of many such instances we hear about random attacks on women and children, which unfortunately lead to their deaths. One such case in May 2023 in Edmonton, Alberta, comes to mind where a similar incident took place. A mother was standing with her child near a school around 5 p.m. when a man came and allegedly stabbed both of them. While she died instantly, her child died in hospital, leaving their family to grieve such unexpected deaths. It was later found that the attacks were very random, and the accused had a criminal history.
Apart from such real-life incidents, the themes that have been portrayed in ‘The After’ have also been explored previously in many films and TV series in popular culture. While some, like the 2021 film ‘Mass’ explore how the parents who have lost their child to a shooting approach the healing process, some more popular ones, like ‘P.S. I Love You’ describe how letters from a deceased partner help in the healing process, just like Dayo listened to the voice notes from his wife to feel better in ‘The After.’ Another film that seems to touch the most on similar themes is ‘The Shack (2017),’ as it addresses the grief of a father who loses his daughter too soon.
The film follows Mack, who is happy with his wife Nan and his three kids. One day, during a camping trip, his youngest child, Missy, disappears and is found dead later, believed to be a victim of serial killing. This breaks Mack as he blames himself for not looking after her, but eventually, he is led to God and given hope by a group of strangers who help him heal. While he doesn’t lose his wife in this film like ‘The After,’ it discusses all the similar themes of grief after losing a daughter and how a father tries to heal from the incident. This storyline also focuses on how he became distant from his wife, indicating how deep that grief flows, making the person feel all alone. This is why even if there are many familiar themes in ‘The After,’ which could have been inspired by real-life tragedies, it can be concluded that the film is still just another story and not based on real events.