Forced out of his job and struggling for new work, Mahmoud instantly captures Reem's attention when she initially spots him at a horse-dancing event. After a quick hookup in the bushes, Reem learns that Mahmoud's struggles run deep, also impacting his wife and two young children.
Having established this promising set-up, "After the Battle" promptly goes nowhere in its second act, when the heartfelt Reem fights to improve Mahmoud's state of affairs as well as those of the other horsemen impacted by the events. The idea that even the apparent attackers have been abused by the Egyptian government certainly holds weight, and Nasrallah's patient screenplay competently accentuates it. "We're embarking on a new era of oppression," Reem says, refusing to celebrate Tahrir Square as anything but a baby step.
Nasrallah's focus shifts between conspiratorial investigation and the burgeoning romance between Reem and Mahmoud, but never finds the right balance between the two. "Don't turn a love story into a political affair," her friend says, and oddly enough it's the movie that takes that advice. Only in the unlikely kinship Reem develops with Mahmoud's equally frustrated young wife (Bassem Samra) does "After the Battle" make its clash-of-classes theme connect, but they have minimal scenes together.
Wandering through a series of heated debates, "After the Battle" finally reaches an enthralling representation of community activism with its climactic scene, set at an actual protest -- but by then it's too late to enliven the overall experience. To be fair, Nasrallah faces a tough proposition from the outset, when one considers the challenge of developing any kind of cogent story around the impact of the Egyptian uprising (or the Arab Spring at large), as it remains in the midst of great change but has yet to prove that true change has in fact taken place. That sense of ambiguity is exactly why "1/2 Revolution" and "Tahrir" contained such stunning immediacy and "After the Battle" fails to make the drama stick: Nasrallah never brings the same intensity to the fiery topic that its heroine regards with such extreme convictions.
Criticwire grade: B-
HOW WILL IT PLAY? Despite the topical hook, the movie is unlikely generate much of a commercial audience, although Middle Eastern and activist film festivals should welcome it.