IANS Review: 'Afterlife of the Party': An insightful look at how grief transforms lives...

Duration: 110 minutes

Director: Stephen Herek

Cast: Victoria Justice, Adam Garcia, Midori Francis, Robyn Scott, Spencer Sutherland, Timothy Renouf and Gloria Garcia.

Rating: ***

By Troy Ribeiro

A few days before her 25th birthday, high on life and wild on partying, the stunning and self-centred Cassie (Victoria Justice), after disappointing her roommate and best friend Lisa (Midori Francis), dies in a freak accident and finds herself stuck in the "in-between".

Val (Robyn Scott), Cassie's handler, a sort of a temporary Guardian Angel during this transition, tells her, "The 'in-between' is for those who have unfinished business back on Earth, like yourself."

According to the rules, she is given a second chance to make things right with a select list of people. If she succeeds, she would be sent to the Above or else she would be sent to the inevitable Below.

Val lays down the rules for Cassie to follow. She is given five days to reconnect with her list of people which include her parents and her best friend Lisa to "fix" what she left broken in life.

Life is not always a bed of roses. Carrie Freedle's script has a great set-up, and it offers a good balance of both, life and afterlife. It subtly is thought-provoking when a dead girl is forced to gain closure, not only in order to enrich the lives of those she left behind, but also to guarantee her standing in the afterlife.

And like films of this genre, this one too follows a predictable path. What keeps the viewer hooked on to it is the promise of an unpredictable twist. Unfortunately, as the narrative unravels, it becomes evident that the outcome we would like is not going to come.

There are lots of cute moments filled with both emotional and aggressive bouts that pack in a fair amount of intense sadness and connectivity.

With every passing moment, each character grows on you. Victoria Justice plays the shallow but party-perfect Cassie to perfection. She is perfectly balanced by Midori Francis as Lisa, the nerdy introvert.

Robyn Scott offers a slightly over-the-top performance as Val, Adam Garcia and Gloria Garcia as Cassie's estranged parents, Myfanwy Waring as the patisserie owner Emme, Timothy Renouf as Max, Cassie's neighbour and Lisa's love interest, all appear to be natural and relatable.

The film is aesthetically appealing and each frame echoes the narrative's tonal progression and emotional payoffs. The Monalisa puzzle is used as a metaphor to bring the missing smile into the lives of the film's characters.

Overall, 'Afterlife of the Party' offers an insightful look at how grief transforms the lives of those dealing with loss. It is neither a tearjerker, nor a flighty entertainer.

(Troy Ribeiro can be contacted at troy.r@ians.in)