As if driven by an inescapable force, Isabel (Michelle Williams) has devoted her life to running an orphanage in a Calcutta slum. With funds running dry, a potential donor, who requires she travel from India to New York, to deliver a presentation in-person, contacts Isabel. At first balking at the demand of an uncommitted philanthropist, she relents, and travels to a city she deliberately hasn't returned to in over two decades. Once in New York, Isabel lands uncomfortably in the sight line of the orphanage's possible benefactor, Theresa Young (Julianne Moore), a multi-millionaire media mogul accustomed to getting what she wants. From the glittering skyscraper where she runs her successful business, to the glorious 'Oyster Bay Estate', where she lives happily with her artist husband, Oscar Carlson (Billy Crudup), 21-year-old daughter, Grace (Abby Quinn), and eight-year-old twins, Theo (Azhy Robertson) and Otto (Tre Ryder), Theresa's life couldn't appear to be more perfect and different from Isabel’s. But appearances are only skin deep and the two women have more in common than meets the eye. While Isabel thinks she'll soon be returning to her beloved orphanage, Theresa has other plans. She insists Isabel attend Grace's wedding at the family's estate. The joyful event becomes a catalyst for a revelation that upends the lives of both women, and the people who love them most.
As if driven by some inescapable force, Isabel (Michelle Williams), an orphanage director in the slums of Calcutta, has devoted her life to caring for impoverished children. She's also become surrogate mother to a vulnerable seven-year-old boy, Jai (Vir Pachisia), with whom she shares such a deep emotional bond, that they're nearly inseparable. Despite years spent working with her colleague, Preena (Anjula Bedi), to scrape together donations, the orphanage is on the brink of bankruptcy. And just as the situation reaches it's breaking point, Preena receives a letter from a potential big donor, who requests that Isabel travel to New York to deliver a presentation in-person. At first balking at the demand of the as yet uncommitted philanthropist, Preena convinces her to relent, and Isabel travels back to a city she's deliberately been avoiding for over two decades.
Once in New York, Isabel is as disoriented by the luxury of the hotel that's been arranged for her, as she's meeting the orphanage's possible benefactor, the glamorous, multi-millionaire media mogul, Theresa (Julianne Moore). From the glittering skyscraper where she runs her successful business, to the glorious 'Oyster Bay Estate', where she lives happily with her artist husband, Oscar (Billy Crudup), 21-year-old daughter, Grace (Abby Quinn), and eight-year-old twins, Theo and Otto, Theresa's life couldn't appear more perfect. But although their lives seem diametrically opposite, Isabel and Theresa are forces to be reckoned with, and have far more in common than they may ever know. While Isabel thinks she'll soon be returning to the orphanage, and her beloved Jai, Theresa has other plans. She invites Isabel to attend Grace's wedding to Jonathan (Alex Esola), a rising young executive at her company. Not wanting to feel any more displaced, Isabel demurs but Theresa, always in command, insists. Despite the veneer of joyfulness, the wedding exposes a long-hidden truth, ripping open an old wound, and exposing a new secret, which alters the course of all of their lives.
Adapting Susanne Bier’s 'Danish' film of the same title, "After The Wedding" crafts an absorbing cinematic tale of secrets and intersecting lives. By cleverly changing the gender of Bier’s characters, the film offers an elevated take on the film’s melodrama, and tells a rich, emotional complex story about strong women, motherhood, second chances and fate. The film has two female leads. Between the dearth of significant, multifaceted leading roles for women, and the country's current climate regarding power dynamics and gender, the switch makes the story more current. Realistically zigzagging from extreme poverty in Calcutta to extreme wealth in New York is no small feat. The film creates the stunning visuals, that beautifully illustrated the chasm between the lives of Isabel and Theresa. The locations in New York are wholly emblematic of Theresa Young's life, and also stand in stark contrast with everything Isabel represented. She's a little bit painful. She has a deep loyalty to the children of the orphanage. 'Karaikudi' has it's own extreme challenges, which to the benefit of the movie, lent authenticity to Isabel's world of the orphanage and breathtaking colors. The conditions of the working environment are challenging. It's hot and unbelievably humid, but the film finessed it. There's a kind of luxurious look to the movie. The world that Isabel is thrust into, feels like something you want to be surrounded by. It's just beautiful and wide, and a little over exposed. It's very exciting to do such a deeply, intimate movie with this super wide scope feel.
What makes a good father? The film reveals Oscar's inner turmoil. He has an intuitive understanding of how monumental things most often happen in small scale. The film's themes of what a parent wishes to pass on to their children, how they want protect them, and how they sometimes fail as parents, really resonated with both of them. Everything that's represented through a space is supposed to transform the audience, especially when it comes to Theresa and Oscar's estate. That house has to say everything about the characters. It focuses on tones that are neutral and soft; grays with blue and purple undertones. The goal is to keep it quiet but to include a layer of character dressing, because there's much in the script that's emotionally stirring. The film works with a new way to use white light and break it up into colors. You can do everything from subtly changing a character's features to creating more elegant shadows and reflections.
Designing the costumes, the film remains alert to creating clothing that not only make the characters inhabit what they're wearing, but that what they're wearing belonged in the space they're living in. The space and the costume feel like one complete character. For Isabel's palette, the film uses only colors, textured fabric and garments that are sourced in India. Careful to not be heavy handed, the character's simple clothing is imbued with subtle indigos and turmeric. When creating looks for Theresa, Oscar and Grace, the film uses soft neutrals and sumptuous fabrics to convey quiet wealth, and the kind of moneyed comfort most often found in exclusive enclaves. Grace is marvelous. She's completely effortless, and open and lovely to watch. Even the costumes for Abby's elaborate wedding, which included a live fire-works display, take a backseat to the physical environment. While the wedding is richly detailed, the garden is the star of the location, so the film creates a story with the clothes, and the people at the wedding are an extension of the garden.
We've many layers, and a plethora of different, three-dimensional, character perspectives. Al character's have a close familial relationships. They all embraces the conflict and the contradiction. They're happy with the endless peeling back of the layers of what could be going on. They strove to uncover the subtleties of how much these people are aware of their behavior, and how much of it's unconscious. So, it's an exciting opportunity to tell a story that takes on what it means for these women to make certain high-stake choices, and then have to deal with the many consequences of those actions. We've an intensive character development and a very modern way the high drama unfolded, to be compelling. It's a story that lives in the real world. The film explores that human frailty, and the joys derived from people we form relationships with over the course of our lives. At the end of the day, we’re all on this journey, but we don’t really have a choice about where it takes us fully. "After the Wedding" deals with the gray areas of life, and the idea that what's morally right or wrong can get muddied. We humans are nearly all guilty of manipulations both large and small, but even with the best intentions, bending the truth to fit your personal narrative often results in great damage.