Official Selection: Sundance 2014
Official Selection: Edinburgh Film Festival 2014
“Charming, thoughtful and laugh-out-loud funny” – Geoff Berkshire, VARIETY
“Earnest and heartfelt midst its truly dark, often violent humor” – Samuel Zimmerman, FANGORIA
Zack (Dane DeHaan) falls apart after the sudden death of his longtime girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza). In his grief, he becomes very close to her parents. Then, without warning they shut him out completely. Near mad with despair, he takes to spying on their house, and to his absolute shock, sees Beth through a window, very much alive again. Her parents have been keeping her hidden while they try to figure out what on Earth is going on. Because she absolutely did die. And she absolutely is currently alive. Beth has no idea that she’s been dead. She’s confused, her strength has intensified to unnatural extremes and her temper’s become something terrible. Just the same, Zack is thrilled at the possibility of having more time with her, to be able to tell her all the things he’d wished he’d said earlier. But nothing is easy. Things are changing. Fast.
The assured directorial debut of I HEART HUCKABEES co-screenwriter Jeff Baena, who also scripted here, LIFE AFTER BETH is not the film you’re likely expecting it to be. Staged with real heart and an energy that’s breathtaking, this is a brilliantly cast, fast-paced comedy with all kinds of wickedly morbid beats, poignantly addressing the punch-drunk difficulties of letting go when relationships change. There are plenty of over-the-top (and often very grisly) visual gags, to be sure, and they are wonderful, but the film’s strongest comedy beats are character driven. It’s a striking example of humour born from pain, infused with an honesty that is startling, while never losing the sharp comedic edge that drives it like an undead firefox. Bringing Baena’s universe to life, Plaza and DeHaan are absolutely perfect here, carrying the film with an endearingly unusual pair of performances that consistently mine gold as they struggle through the desperately confused emotions of coming to terms with a relationship that has become the very definition of impossible. They’re backed by a terrific supporting cast that includes John C. Reily (CYRUS), Cheryl Hines (CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM), Molly Shannon (SUPERSTAR), Paul Reiser (ALIENS), Matthew Gray Gubler (CRIMINAL MINDS) and Anna Kendrick (UP IN THE AIR), the latter two also lighting up this year’s Fantasia screen in SUBURBAN GOTHIC, respectively. Enormously entertaining and every bit as thoughtful, LIFE AFTER BETH is a howlingly funny heartbreaker that announces its maker as a filmmaking force to be reckoned with.
— Mitch Davis