Alex M. Garnett
Alex M. Garnett
The brain is a complicated and powerful organ facilitating the very essence of a human being. It's here we become us, and it's here our very soul resides - if you believe that kind of thing. Our mind is powerful, resilient, and strong, but at the same time, it's also so damn weak and fragile. As strong as the strongest mind can be, sometimes something just breaks - physical or chemical - and the results can be all over the board. But no matter how you classify it, usually said results are never good. "After the Night with Valerie" features one such example of a misfiring brain, and whether Layne's mental problems start with the movie's namesake Valerie - or long before she enters into his life, is up to you to decide.
In a spoiler-free nutshell, Layne meets Valerie while grabbing some grub at a local cafe - with no small amount of help from his best friend, Nate. The two hit it off, and after spending the night with her, Layne wakes up in a strange house populated by unknown people. As it turns out, the place and people are not really strange at all, and Layne has actually lost four or five years' worth of memories. The strange woman is Jess, his wife, and the little one running around is his son Winslow.
As you can imagine, the rest of the film follows Layne as he tries to piece together the last few years of his existence, but that's not the whole story. As the movie progresses, we learn he and Nate are no longer friends and that, in fact, Nate is now with Valerie. But it's not like the old chums just drifted apart either - something bad happened. Then you have Layne's memories themselves which ever so slowly begin to change and shift. Conversations, actions, and sentiments Layne thought were his may not have been his at all - not in the way he remembers them. His relationship... his night with Valerie... may, in fact, be nothing like he remembers it - if it happened at all. "After the Night with Valerie" is a psychological drama that at its heart is the study of the mind - and as I've hinted at above, Layne may have been in mental distress long before this film's first scene starts. Did I enjoy it? Alex M. Garnett's feature may not be perfect, but it more than did the trick. I was hooked.
Where this film does shine pretty damn brightly is when I think back on the acting. As far as low-budget indie flicks go, eight out of ten times the acting holds back a solid production. Not here. As a matter of fact? The acting in this movie is one of the highlights, and I'm not just talking about the leads. All of the supporting roles felt pretty spot on, and "After the Night with Valerie" feels natural and believable right from the start. That's not to say I don't believe more time with the other characters would have been great, only that what I did get felt pretty believable.
Also worth mentioning is the concept itself and the fact that Garnett's film doesn't water down the leading character Layne's humanity - or lack of. His character is not leading man material because he's definitely not the perfect guy. Actually, he's the exact opposite - a guy many would consider a complete slime ball if they knew who he actually was. This mirrors reality in a sense because, honestly? How many of us are perfect? How many of us haven't done some downright scummy and creepy things in our own life? Now, the Layne character is perhaps beyond reproach as we learn more about him, and he even hints at a darker past. But again, how shiny are we? How perfect am I? "After the Night with Valerie" takes an anti-hero and goes for broke. I'm not saying that a few sub-stories couldn't have been elaborated on during this film, but it's refreshing to see a story about someone who's not Captain America. As for redemption? You'll simply have to watch the movie for yourself.
When it's all said and done, this is not the shining example of a perfect film - but I still found it to be damn entertaining. Alex M. Garnett and his troupe have presented an intelligent, well-acted movie that does what it set out to do. It entertains. If you really stop and think about everything, you can find flaws... but why would you? This isn't meant to be the next "Titanic" or "Jaws." This isn't a film designed to change the industry as we know it... it's a film designed to be watched and enjoyed. I would say it more than succeeded - three and a half stars.