The concept is simple.
Girlfriend dies, boyfriend is distraught. But what happens when girlfriend rises from the dead, with no explanation, not knowing that she died in the first place?
Jeff Baena’s comedy horror Life After Beth tells the story of how Zach (Dane Dehaan) deals with the sudden death of his girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza) after she is resurrected slightly differently to how he remembers her.
With a supporting cast of John C. Riley and Anna Kendrick, this film promised laughs and heartbreak through the romantic tension built by the couple pulled apart by fate. With this in mind, however, I feel like the film falls short in places.
The film opens with Zach shopping for black napkins before the funeral of his beloved Beth. His mourning process is highlighted in the early scenes, and Dehaan’s portrayal of heartbreak is believable, which makes us eager for Beths’ revival.
She is resurrected shortly after Zach and Beths’ father (played by Riley) bond over smoking weed whilst playing chess – with no explanation of how this miracle could have occurred.
The comedy timing portrayed between Beths’ father and Beth’s ignorance to her situation and lust for Zach is effective in its’ approach, with Riley’s awkward father reactions to the sexual advances of her daughter to her boyfriend; and the refusal to tell her what has happened to her.
The early scenes between Dehaan and Plaza are beautifully done – making the audience believe in their love and the carefree nature of their romance. Zach is delighted to have his girlfriend back and we are delighted for him, but not for long.
As she begins to decay, her personality changes and she becomes more and more angry and frustrated, lashing out and attacking potential new love interest Erica (Anna Kendrick). The confusion that Beth feels is portrayed well by Plaza, with her need to be close to Zach in this scary place in which she is unsure if she is dead or alive.
At this point, the film loses its’ grip on my emotions with how out of hand it becomes within a matter of scenes. All of a sudden all the dead people in the whole neighbourhood are resurrected, spurring a miniature community-wide apocalypse whereby the old owners of Zach’s house and his deceased grandfather enter the home.
As the film draws to a close, we are invited into the intimacy of Zach and Beth’s relationship one last time in her final moments and his goodbye. A spark of recognition by the now completely overtaken Beth creates one last potential heartfelt moment, which draws to a close the feelings of love and hurt that these characters feel – however it is undermined by the ridiculousness of the comedic aftermath of her death – as she rolls down the hill dragged by an oven like a rag doll in a washing machine.
The end scene of Zach placing Beths’ scarf and her fathers’ chess piece on their respective graves is a nice touch, however the end just sets up for his next relationship as he gets into the car and asks Erica on a date. As the film finishes, the plot is also still unresolved. We never find out how the towns’ deceased came back to life for a period of two days and then vanished again, or why.
Perhaps this film is just slapstick and silly from start to finish, as the plot suggests, yet I feel that as a viewer that is invited into the romantic aspects of the story and connections between characters, this was not fulfilled throughout and perhaps lacks the clarity that was needed for me to feel satisfied as the end credits began to roll.