East Stroudsburg, PA

Film Review: Life After You

Paul Adam Smeltz

In nearly every good film, great film, meaningful film, there is a moment that transcends the film’s plot, cinematography, and acting that makes it “A FILM.” It is within this moment when a cinematic presence is felt by the viewer that enhances the experience of being a part of the audience. For instance, while there are many cinematic elements to Steven Spielberg’s film “Jaws” that make it a Masterpiece, there is one scene in which Quint (Robert Shaw) shares his experience of the sinking of SS Indianapolis to his shipmates, Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) and Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), that adds a dimension to the film that involves the audience more deeply with all that came before the scene and all that will come after it. The film titled, “Life After You” has such a transcending moment.

“Life After You” is based on the book written by Linda Lajterman titled, “Life After You: What Your Death From Drugs Leaves Behind” which gives an autobiographical account of her family’s struggle with the death of her 19 year old son due to an overdose of heroin that was laced with fentanyl. The transcending moment of the film comes where the parents of the deceased son are sitting together in a hospital after his mother has a heart attack. His father shares how he remembers every time he told their son to do better in school, help with the chores, and all the parental admonishments frequently directed to their children but can’t remember if he ever told his son that he loved him. It is at this time did his wife and mother of his son lean over to gently tell him, “You did.”

The film captures the essence of the book that it is based on by portraying the heart rendering tragedy experienced by the family with pitch perfect precision. In fact, the sheer sorrow that permeates much of the film is almost too much for the viewer to bear because it is so realistic. Yet, the filmmaker expertly creates such a compelling story through her mastery of the cinematic language that one is compelled to look not only at the images that fill the screen but to go beyond them to see each character’s soul revealed in every frame. It is at this point that we become one with the characters and share in their sorrow until what we see becomes who we are.

“Life After You” is the art of cinema at its best. The acting was superbly well done as the subtle manner in which the devastating emotions were conveyed by the main characters allowed even those who have never known what it is like to lose a loved one to drugs will never forget the feeling. The cinematography had the ability to draw the audience deeper into the story through the numerous visual moments that ranged from an eye opening in the morning to wakefulness to a trash can lid slowly closing after an item is thrown away when its usefulness is no more. The screenplay seamlessly wove the story together with each deftly crafted line of dialog (both heard and unheard) not only created characters that supported the story but had life stories of their own to share.

“Life After You” was directed by Sarah T. Schwab (a resident of Monroe County) who co-wrote the screenplay with Florencia Lozano who portrayed Linda; the mother of the 19 year old victim of the drug overdose Danny (Jake Ryan Lozano). Linda’s husband, Tito, was played by Gary Perez. Their daughter and Danny’s sister, Anna, was played by Domenica Feraud. The cast also includes Kathryn Erbe, Craig “muMs” Grant, and Tina Benko. The lead Producer of the film was Brian Long (a resident of Monroe County).

“Life After You” was shown at The Pocono Cinema and Cultural Center in East Stroudsburg, PA on February 11th and 12th. A question and answer session with members of the Production team and cast took place after the screenings. The film has received numerous accolades which include the WorldFest-Houston award for the Best Lead Actress and the Special Jury Remi for First Feature Film. The Nice International Film Festival presented “Life After You” with their Best Feature and Best Lead Actress awards. The Madrid International Film Festival presented their Best Director award to Sarah T. Schwab. The film was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay, Best Feature, Best Lead Actress, Best Lead Actor, and Best Editing Awards. To learn more about “Life After You,” future screenings, and how to participate in future film projects, please visit their Website at www.lifeafteryoumovie.com.

Producer Brian Long and Director Sarah T. Schwab (Residents of Monroe County) presented their film “Life After You” at The Pocono Cinema.Paparazzi Paul

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Paul Adam Smeltz began his semi professional writing career as columnist writing art and social commentary for The East Stroudsburg University of PA Student Newspaper titled, "The Stroud Courier."

Stroudsburg, PA

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