Like The Son's Room and In the Bedroom before it, Gael Morel's Apres Lui is about parents coping with the loss of a child. But where those two films took approaches of quiet poeticism and raw-nerve realism, respectively, Apres Lui adopts the mechanics of a psychological thriller in its meditation on the peculiarities of grief. When a young man dies in an accident in his best friend's car, his divorced mother (Catherine Deneuve, still the reigning lioness of the French cinema) becomes obsessed with the driver, even as the rest of her family castigates his very appearance at her son's service. With a mixture of sexual attraction, morbid curiosity and the need to replace her son, she stalks the boy to the point where a restraining order is required. In a moment right out of the Hitchcock or Claude Chabrol playbook, she even has him drive at reckless speeds through the forested road where the accident occurred in an effort to re-create it. Deneuve is a gripping presence, and an extreme close-up on her eyes concludes the film on a note of uncertainty that's as bold as it is refreshing.
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