Review: Portuguese Crime Drama AFTER THE NIGHT


Digital technology and new release platforms have led to a revolution in moviemaking. It has now become relatively inexpensive to produce and distribute quality films which may never have been released in the dark days of the old cinema release structure. VOD means that audiences can now seek out interesting films in the comfort of their own home (without the stigma of going ‘straight-to-DVD’.) These audiences have the opportunity to balance their Hollywood blockbusters with more obscure, foreign films that they might never have watched – or even heard of. Films like After The Night.

Portuguese director Basil de Cunha delivers a film which feels fresh, shooting fast and loose on the streets of Lisbon. Pedro Ferreira plays Sombra, a street level criminal in deep with some people who want his blood if he doesn’t pay up. Using non-actors and an improv style, de Cunha’s crime drama has a gritty, streetwise greasiness. The performances are strong but not all of them hit the right mark. Visually, the film has a hand-held aesthetic, and the gritty digital photography captures a vérité style.

After The Night illustrates that gangland crime is a universal truth. It’s global and it looks and feels the same from New York to London to Lisbon. Basil de Cunha shows that he has some talent, but this drama doesn’t add anything to the pantheon of great crime movies (it does however show a part of the world rarely seen on screen).

After The Night brings attention to world cinema, showing that quality movies can be made throughout the globe (and not just Hollywood) and the advent of VOD means that we can finally get to see many more of these. A generation raised on comic book franchise movies now has the opportunity to watch something that will (hopefully) change their expectations of what cinema is.