Who is the most reliable teller of your story and history? Is it you, those who’ve loved and protected you, or those who’ve had to live with the consequences of your missteps? The creativity and sharp-eyed observations of filmmaker and academic Behrendt combine in this lyrical and gently dazzling tale.
After Story weaves a richly researched tapestry of literature, history and science, told through successive days on a literary tour holiday taken by mother and daughter Della and Jasmine through the streets of London and other towns of note in the UK. Casting a shadow over the holiday is the breathless televised coverage of a girl abducted from a London park, in circumstances that remind them of their own loss. Twenty years earlier Brittany – Della’s daughter and Jasmine’s sister – was snatched from her home, and the investigation was steeped in suspicion, racism and inattention by police to a grieving Indigenous family. The trauma carried by both is delicately layered over the story, and each day and visit to museum or manor binds their treatment to the broader shunning of many groups, particularly Indigenous communities and women, from established places of knowledge.
As readers, we live each day twice: once through Della’s eyes and again through Jasmine’s. It’s a technique that in the hands of a less-skilful writer could become tedious, but Behrendt is adept at not overplaying it. Rather than suggesting unreliable narration through wildly varied accounts, the differences in each day recorded by Della and Jasmine are entirely matters of their own interpretation; a misreading of tone, a clumsy attempt at humour or affection, a misguided belief the other wishes to be left alone, or that they are embarrassed by the other. In other words, the credible and relatable ways that humans continue to misunderstand each other, even those we love most, despite our most earnest intentions.