LAFF 2014: The Ever After
Writer turned director Mark Webber is only 34 years old, his wife of a few months, Teresa Palmer, is 28. Incredibly young and newlywed for the level of drama they face in Webber’s latest directorial endeavor which involves him playing a photographer, Thomas, and Palmer playing his young actress wife, Ava. Blurring reality’s lines further Ava takes credit for Palmer’s real life films, and the fictional couple have a daughter, albeit older than the baby Webber and Palmer just had together in February. The realistic parallels make one wonder why on earth Webber and Palmer would want to imagine a false future for themselves as bleak as the one they paint in The Ever After. The film follows the young married couple as they face an early marriage slump, doubting each other’s feelings and trading sex for real conversations. The restless Thomas heads off to New York for a photography gig where he walks further down the path of infidelity only to find himself paying an intensely high price for his mistakes. Back in LA, Ava meets a hippy woman (Melissa Leo) who invites her to stitch and bitch in her storefront and starts to force her to address some of her issues, though the inner analysis ends up revealing a deeper problem than just a lukewarm marriage.
Perhaps Webber and Palmer were thirsty for challenging roles and decided the best way to do it would be to write their own. And indeed they’ve given themselves the sort of complicated content even older actors would shy away from. Palmer has an enthralling and expressive face, with exacting control of her emotions. In any given scene she fluctuates between five different moods and has mastered her tear ducts into working overtime for her. She’s inspiring to watch. Webber is equally masterful, having written for himself some truly gritty and horrifying content, and while it’s questionable why he felt it necessary to go quite so far it shows courage and commitment to his craft. I hope (for their sakes) the parallels between Thomas and Ava and Webber and Palmer is mostly confined to their reflections on the narcissism of their industries. The dark picture Webber has painted, while stirring and both beautifully felt and heard (Moby and Daniel Ahearn have put together a great soundtrack), makes for a sometimes difficult watch. The ending is a bit simplistic, boiling down all that heavy content into an easier to swallow broth so no one leaves the theater with suicidal thoughts. The film is sure to evoke mixed impressions, but one that carries across firmly is that this is a film made by immensely talented people.