I had the privilege of watching a short film a few days ago. Watching short films is something I never used to do a lot but after watching After Her I’m on the hunt for more bizarre and ambitious short films, and I actually urge you guys to look for short films like After Her.
Written and directed by Ali Migliori, After Her is an award-winning, atmospheric sci-fi short film about the archetypal lost girl that appeared in more than 20 film festivals and stars Natalia Dyer (Stranger Things) and Christopher Dylan White (The Miseducation of Cameron Post).
The official synopsis for Migliori’s short film reads:
When Hailey (Dyer), a teenage girl goes missing, her friend is haunted by the disappearance. Years later, her friend returns to their childhood home and finds himself being beckoned back into those woods —the last place Hailey was seen alive. Callum’s (White) trip deep into the forest unsettles a superior life force, sparking fear, enlightenment, and unexplainable happenings. His trip is both physical and metaphysical, and his journey challenges his assumptions regarding her disappearance and his own sense of self, and of life and loss.
I never expected a film that was just over 10 minutes long to take me on such a bizarre and mystical journey. What I believe the director encapsulated so well was this transition from a typical story about someone going missing to a much larger narrative that dabbles in ideas surrounding metaphysicality and unexplained phenomenons. While typical films, particularly feature length movies, would attempt to explain such phenomenons, After Her allows the audiences to revel in the mysterious nature of this movie. I found myself asking “what just happened?” “what does it mean?” and “what happens next?”. All of these questions go unanswered but that is, what I call, the hook of this film. After Her provides a unique twist on the typical lost girl story and it uses that to further elevate the overall alien atmosphere that runs throughout the film. The combination of an untypical narrative and the enlightened life form that plagues the woods provides such a unique experience that is executed brilliantly, not only thanks to the storytelling but also the cinematography.
I love a film that looks good, whether it’s the CGI or the actual aesthetics of the film itself. After Her is one of those films that deserves to be recognized for the way it is filmed. A large majority of the film takes place within the woods and the way the forest was shot really evoked a strange combination of feelings. At one point I was admiring the beauty of the forest that was captured beautifully but then I also found that certain shots made the forest feel quite uncanny and alien- I knew it was a forest, yet there was something off about it. Considering the overarching narrative, I think the aesthetics complemented this short film in the best way possible. I even found that the scenery was just as important as our two main characters. Whether that was the intention or not, I just found myself studying the way the forest was captured. Additionally, the practicality of the film was also incredibly impressive. I’m not sure how short films are budgeted but I was so impressed with some of the visual effects and practical effects. I would absolutely love to know how certain things were created.
This short film really knew how to show instead of tell. The dialogue is so minimal and that has such a significant impact. With a prime focus on the visual aspects, the inclusion of an ambient soundtrack and the occasional eerie track allow the film to flourish as a visual spectacle. That’s not to say that our two main characters are forgettable in any way, in fact I’d argue that this short film relied heavily, not on the dialogue, but the facial expressions of Hailey and Callum. In their own way, their faces alone help tell the story. Natalia’s character, in particular, is so interesting to watch since there is a clear and obvious change in her character and the way that is shown is fascinating and really well done.
After Her is a bold and ambitious short film that subverts expectations and offers a baffling yet equally as beautiful story that is definitely not your typical missing persons story, nor a typical sci-fi story. If you’re looking for something different or a film that is aesthetically pleasing, After Her is a film that does both simultaneously. You may be scratching your head slightly as the credits roll but that’s a good thing. A huge round of applause to the cast and crew of After Her for showing a rookie, like myself, how powerful short films can be.