Where countless films have collapsed inheritance between second-wave feminists and subsequent generations of women into platonic or familial intergenerational conflict, After Louie revitalises the motif in the relationship between ex-activist Sam (a stylish Alan Cumming) and Braeden (Booth), who has grown up with many of the rights his older lover campaigned for.
Rather than simply deriding them for apparent youthful apathy, writer-director Vincent Gagliostro refreshingly has his younger characters acknowledge their debt to the older generation. His direction, too, is subtle; it doesn’t demand unceasing alignment with the sometimes unsympathetic Sam, who Cumming plays by continually straddling the line between sensitive charmer and abrasive rogue. It’s Cumming’s film, yet Sarita Choudhury gives a slight yet triumphant supporting performance that offers a welcome counterbalance to her appearance in Learning to Drive.
After Louie takes place in quiet, marginal spaces of New York, yet its naturalism is interrupted with Sam’s archive footage of a deceased former partner. Clips of anger and emotional distress seem insensitive and unlikely fodder for home video, so their existence within the narrative sometimes feels contrived. But that’s the point; both Sam and Gagliostro document the undocumented. Thankfully Gagliostro eschews the potential for explicitly drawing attention to this with hackneyed “meta” commentary.
Sam’s filmmaking and the intergenerational relationships recall Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young, while a subplot of older gay lovers briefly reuniting – problematically, this is possibly pitched for laughs – invites comparisons to Ira Sachs’ Love is Strange. After Louie, however, is more inclusive of various races than either.
After Louie tells a moving and thought-provoking self-contained story, while admirably claiming a space for the underrepresented – both living and dead. There are limits, however. Despite its array of well-drawn characters across boundaries of race, sexuality, and age, After Louie remains confined to an extremely middle-class-centrist world.
CAST: Alan Cumming, Zachary Booth, Sarita Choudhury, Patrick Breen
DIRECTOR: Vincent Gagliostro
WRITERS: Vincent Gagliostro, Anthony Johnston
SYNOPSIS: Having witnessed the deaths of too many friends and lovers, former AIDS activist Sam is struggling with survivor’s guilt. An unexpected intimacy with a much younger man develops his understanding of contemporary gay life.