Leaving is apparently what Jack does best. He left his wife, he left his friends in a whole lot of trouble, and now he wants to leave the planet. His visa has finally come through from the Office of Extraplanetary Emigration but there is a problem: the permit is for a couple rather than a single man, coded exclusively to both Jack and Vanessa whom he hasn’t seen her in six years and now he only has four days to find her.
Hitch-hiking back home to try to pick up the trail, all he finds is closed doors and angry words, none of those he left behind overjoyed to see him or willing to help him even if they did know where Vanessa was, and with the Friday departure approaching it becomes apparent that Jack will have to pay off his overdue debts starting with small-time crook Eric.
The feature debut of writer/director Aleem Hossain with its world premiere at the Sci-Fi London film festival, After We Leave paints a bleak picture of the world and the people who occupy it, the radio telling of homicide rates which have risen 40% in ten years and two decades of recession, with climate change taking hold and a third of the United States now classed as desert.
Central Division‘s Brian Silverman is put-upon everyman Jack Chaney while Twin Peaks‘ Clay Wilcox, NCIS: Los Angeles‘ Anslem Richardson and Anita Leeman are Eric, Morgan and Lexi, each of them former friends of Jack’s who either want nothing to do with him or expect something back from him, downtrodden people with little to lose and every reason to resent Jack’s seeming good fortune.
Like Monsters, the mundane setting is subtly enhanced to create the near-future, holographic signs floating above gas stations, the twinkling lights of a Moon colony while others scrabble for a living on the dying Earth; as the saying goes, the future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed, but After We Leave seems to have been shortchanged.
Science fiction the medium of ideas, the film has just one around which it has built its premise, but were it to be replaced by a more conventional migration the narrative would not change in any way, eighty weary minutes of mumbling, misery, petty grudges and gunplay, After We Leave a science fiction film by default rather than intrinsically and with little to hold it up other than that flimsy claim.