Afterlife of the Party – review

Brief synopsis: In the run-up to her twenty-fifth birthday, a young woman dies. She wakes to find herself in limbo, neither in heaven or hell. 

She is told that she has unfinished business on Earth. She has five days to complete a list. The completion of the list will determine her fare. 

Is it any good?: Afterlife of the Party is a sweet and heartwarming film. With a nod to similar films, like Ghost, but more pertinently, Blithe Spirit, the brilliant Noel Coward film with a similar premise, remade multiple times, Afterlife of the Party brings an energy and sweetness that makes it a highly enjoyable watch. 

Spoiler territory: It is Cassie’s (Victoria Justice) twenty-fifth birthday in a few days and she is excited. Her best friend since childhood, Lisa (Midori Francis), who she lives with, arrives home from work. Carrie is a party-girl and is determined to kick off her birthday week in style. 

Lisa is focused on furthering her career, wants to stay in and have a quiet evening. Carrie wins, the two ladies leaving their apartment for a night out. 

As they leave, they meet their new neighbour, Max (Timothy Renouf). Lisa is immediately enamoured by him. Max is equally taken by Lisa. 

Carrie gently ribs her friend about the obvious attraction between the two, as they make their way to a club. Lisa deflects. She has no time for a relationship. 

Carrie tells her that she needs to have fun. They change the subject, a slightly embarrassed Carrie noting that her father, Howie (Adam Garcia), has posted on Instagram.

She feels awkward about him being in, what she feels, is a young space and how cloying he can be. Lisa thinks he is nice and just wants to be closer to his adult daughter. Carrie loves her father but is happy that they lead separate lives. 

They arrive at the club and similarly, party-loving peers, greet Carrie. She is the queen of the night. The partying begins. Carrie is drinking and dancing. Lisa is more reserved, conscious of working the next day. 

The group leave, going to another party at one of their houses. Lisa wants to go home and tries to persuade Carrie to go with her. The two women argue. Cassie tells her that they have probably outgrown one the friendship. Lisa goes home. 

A drunken Carrie staggers home in the early hours. She knocks on Lisa’s bedroom door but Lisa pretends not to hear her. Carrie goes to bed. In the morning, a still worse for wear Carrie stumbles into her bathroom. 

She slips whilst bracing on the sink. She grabs for the towel rail to steady herself but the rail breaks causing her to fall and hit her head on the toilet bowl. She dies. 

Carrie wakes up to find a woman watching videos of her life. Carrie sees images from her final night on Earth. She has no idea where she is.

The woman, noting she is awake, starts recounting the facts of Carrie’s life. She is dead. Val (Robyn Scott), is her temporary guardian angel. 

After getting over the notion of finding out she is dead, Carrie wants to know if she is in heaven. Or hell. Val tells her she is in a place they call the In-Between. 

She is there because she has unfinished business on Earth. She has to make things right with a select list of people who she left behind. That is the only way for her to be sure of getting into heaven. 

Val takes her to the first person on the list. It is her father. He is depressed, his home is a mess. How long has she been dead? A year. Carrie is shocked, she thought it had been a day. 

The next person on the list is Lisa. Carrie does not want to see her. Val tells her she has no choice. She is on the list. Who else is on the list? 

Val takes her to see Sofia (Gloria Garcia), her estranged mother. Carrie has not spoken to her since she was a child, her mother having left her father to bring her up alone. They return to the In-Between. Val tells her she has five days to clear the three names off the list. 

Carrie worries about how she is meant to do anything. Especially as no one can see or hear her. Only animals and children. After a quick wardrobe change, Val tells her that her mission begins immediately. Val sends her to Lisa’s apartment. 

Unable to communicate with Lisa, Carrie just follows her around. Lisa meets Max in the corridor. It has been a year and Carrie can see that their spark for one another is still present, even if the relationship has not advanced. 

She follows her as she goes to a new coffee shop. Lisa is very friendly with the owner, Emme (Myfanwy Waring). 

Carrie follows her to work and observes in frustration, Lisa’s lack of confidence as she is challenged by one of her colleagues, Raj (Kiroshan Naidoo), when an opportunity to work for a leading palaeontologist comes up. 

The interviews will be conducted that week, but Raj keeps up the mind games. Only one person will be picked. He is confident of it being him. 

Carrie goes to see Val. She laments the fact that her best friend does not seem to miss her or need her. Val tells herself that perhaps she should be thinking about their needs, rather than her own. She sends her back. 

Carrie is back in Lisa’s bedroom. Carrie tries speaking to Lisa again. Nothing happens, Lisa soundly asleep. She begins to hum, her humming waking Lisa. Carrie looks at Lisa. Lisa opens her eye to see Carrie appearing and screams. Carrie goes to see Val. 

Val checks an ancient book. It is possible to connect with a living person if you had a strong connection with them. They go to see Howie again. He has left Carrie’s bedroom as a shrine to her. He still cannot see her. 

Day two and Carrie returns to Lisa. Lisa is the only person who can see and hear her. 

Lisa tries to ignore, sure that she is no more than a figment of an overworked and stressed imagination. Carrie keeps on following her. Lisa goes to see Emme and tells her what is happening. 

Emme tells her she should take it as a compliment. Lisa just wants Carrie to leave her alone. Carrie’s persistence pays off. Lisa begins to interact with her, their friendship rekindling. 

They bond over the music of Carrie’s living crush, Koop (Spencer Sutherland). She asks Lisa what is she going to do about her year-long crush on the neighbour, Max. 

Lisa is reluctant to do anything. Carrie directs her to turn up the music. The loud music, gets Max knocking on her door. She invites him in but loses her nerve as the relationship seems to be going well. Max, a diffident individual himself, leaves. Lisa beats herself up about her ineptitude with relationships. 

Carrie decides to give them a push, arranging a sequence of events that pushes the two together. Max asks Lisa to join him on a visit to the set of Koop’s new video. She accepts the invite. 

Carrie decides to tackle her father next. She goes over to his home and arranges his space in the hope of pushing him back into his yoga practice. Howie, being a spiritual person, sees it as a sign from Carrie. 

She returns to Lisa, telling her about seeing both her father and mother. She does not know how and if she will be able to connect with her mother. 

Lisa returns home to get ready for her date with Max. Carrie helps her pick an outfit. It being a Koop video, Carrie accompanies Lisa and Max, not wanting to miss out on the opportunity of seeing him. 

Carrie tries to get close to Koop but is pulled back to the In-Between Place. Val reminds her that she only has three more days and Koop is not on the list. 

Lisa and Max get together. Lisa returns home and sees Carrie. The date was great. Carrie is overcome with sadness at all the things she will miss in her friend’s life. 

Lisa feels guilty about leaving Carrie alone the night they argued. Carrie does not know how she will deal with her mother. 

Lisa goes to see Sofia, acting as Carrie’s proxy. Sofia is wracked with guilt over her abandonment of Carrie. Sofia says she was too young and headstrong for her relationship with Howie. 

She was not ready to be a mother. Lisa, much to the chagrin of Cassie, asks Sofia what she would say if Cassie was there. 

Back at the apartment, Cassie rages at Lisa, angry that her life is over. They argue and Carrie leaves. Back in the In-Between place, Val tells her she can end her mission. All that she has done will be undone and she will go to hell. Cassie decides to continue. 

She goes to see her father. Much to her surprise, Sofia is there. She apologises for leaving him to bring up Cassie alone. Cassie witnesses them reconnecting. 

She forgives her mother. Sofia’s name fades from the list. Cassie goes to see Val again with an unusual request. She wants to add a name to the list. Emme, thinking that she would be good for her dad. 

Val agrees to the request. Cassie engineers a meeting between Howie and Emme. The next day is her last day. She goes to see Lisa. Lisa is still hesitating to put herself forward for the interview. 

Cassie gives her the confidence to sign up. Lisa has her interview and is successful, getting the much sought after position. 

Emme is having the first anniversary of the opening of her coffee shop. Howie arrives at the opening and meets Emme. The two click instantly.

Lisa and Max arrive at the opening. Lisa tells Carrie to meet her after the party. Later that evening, Lisa hosts a small gathering of Cassie’s family and friends, honouring her life on the anniversary of her death. 

Howie remembers a song he used to sing to Cassie when she was a child. Cassie sings along with him and becomes visible to him. She hugs him farewell. 

Cassie returns to Lisa’s apartment. She wants to find a jigsaw piece. They have a large puzzle of the Mona Lisa that is incomplete. 

Carrie has just missed her deadline and Val does not know if she will get into heaven. They return to the In-Between place to await the verdict. Val gets promoted and Cassie gets into heaven. 

An elevator is the way to heaven. Whilst in the elevator, Koop gets on. He was killed whilst performing at a charity relief gig. They both reach heaven, a beautiful garden. The end. 

Final thoughts: Afterlife of the Party is such a nice film. Written by Carrie Freedle and directed by Stephen Herek, the film flows through its one-hundred-and-nine-minute runtime. 

The chemistry between the two leads, Victoria Justice and Midori Francis as Carrie and Lisa respectively, works beautifully, their life-long friendship believable.

The rest of the cast ably support them but the central story of friendship and love is what makes this film such a good watch. Freedle’s script is clever and funny in parts, the characters driving the story rather than any outside McGuffin. 

Though the film does not feel overlong, it could have ended earlier, the Koop angle and emergence to the Eden-esque garden more of an indulgence than a necessity. That said, it does not detract from the film and is a minor gripe. 

Afterlife of the Party is a romcom without a central romance and that, in this case, is not a problem. A lovely film.

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