After Ever After
A doctor, still reeling from the death of his wife, faces the horrific prospect of losing his young daughter to leukemia. One of his patients, a legendary violinist, faces the loss of his mind to late-stage Alzheimer’s. After Ever After wrestles with heavy emotions, and writer/director Rakesh Kumar knew from the outset that its score would, at times, need to go to a similarly heavy place—and elsewhere to bring lightness, and hope.
“The film deals with a very grim topic,” Kumar says. “The death of a child is, instinctively, an extremely difficult event for anyone to stomach. I wanted to make it a little bit more bearable through music.” “What I loved about the film is that, at its heart, it’s a family story,” says composer Jerome Leroy, who wrote the score for After Ever After in the summer of 2014. “When I started working on it, my son was two-years-old, and, being a parent, those kinds of stories impact you even more. You ask yourself, ‘What would I do if I were in that situation?’ I thought the film conveyed that in a very humble and human way, true to how one might deal with it in real life.”
Leroy’s main theme for the score is a lullaby, a childlike melody for piano and celeste that gently bobs up and down on a calm current of strings. This theme, which introduces the film in the main titles, attends to Dr. Patel and his ailing daughter throughout their heartbreaking predicament. “The whole movie revolves around this idea of a love story which doesn’t have an ending,” explains Leroy, who performed the piano solos himself. “What happens after the ending is anyone’s guess—the ‘after ever after.’ So Rakesh and I wanted that theme to come from the eyes of the child, and to be, if not naive, at least simple and reassuring. To that end, a lot of the score was written with celeste shadowing piano, which is an interesting combination because, as ‘hammered’ instruments, they both leave a lot of space for silence and dialogue. As such, most of the score, even the introduction, is fairly subdued.”
The score’s other major character is solo violin, performed with virtuosity by Caroline Campbell (a member of the Sonus Quartet in Los Angeles, and a favorite crossover soloist of pop stars and symphony orchestras alike). “I knew when I started writing this score that it was going to be for her,” says Leroy. “Her playing is full of emotion, sometimes ethereal, sometimes fragile, and can also be harsh and cold and raw if it needs to be.” The violin stands in for the character of Donnie J., the famous musician whose mind and memory are now deteriorating with Alzheimer’s. As Donnie goes through sudden episodes of cognitive bewilderment, the instrument races along frantically in parallel. “Those big runs coincide with the internal struggle of trying to make sense of the world around you,” says Leroy. “From frantic and energetic, it blends into something serene and ethereal once Donnie calms down.” Thanks to its encompassing technical variety, the violin is a visual and auditory metaphor for the visceral struggle going on within Donnie J. Also his loneliness, explains Kumar. “I wanted the score to feel a bit melancholic,” the director says. “One of the themes in the film is the idea that, as a star, as a musician, no matter how far you go, there is always a certain amount of loneliness.”
But there is beauty in the solo instrument, too, for both Donnie and Dr. Patel, who starts to lose himself to drinking in the wake of his wife’s death. “[Patel’s] salvation—his acceptance of life and the fact that it’s finite and ephemeral—is through that patient,” Leroy explains. “Using the violin as a way to redemption or acceptance was something Rakesh and I talked about from the very beginning. We had three stories of love and loss: between the father and his daughter, between the husband and his wife, and between Donnie J. and his own love interest. Each story goes through the acceptance process of what we used to have and what we eventually lose. There were a lot of different parallels going on, and using the solo violin was, we thought, the fitting approach to create a common thread between each story.”
Leroy’s final challenge was creating an instrumental song that would feature prominently within the film: a song called “Gypsy Town” fictionally written by Donnie J. in his prime. “It’s a tune that [Dr. Patel] hears on the radio at the very beginning of the film for a few seconds,” says Leroy. “Rakesh and I had a lot of discussion about what that song could be. At first we wanted it to be very jazz-oriented, backed by a rhythm section or maybe a big band. Then we realized, considering how the character develops in the film, that it had to be more concept-based. Donnie J. used to be a succesful commercial artist revered by both art critics and popular critics. What kind of music would be accepted by both ends? Figuring out that song, which you hear at the very end of the film in its full rendition, was a gratifying experience.” The result is an emotive, lyrical showcase by Campbell’s violin over free flowing piano and upright bass that could well indeed woo both camps.
“This film is primarily dialogue-driven, there isn’t much action,” says Kumar. “In all of the empty spaces, the score brought out the unspoken emotions on the screen. In After Ever After, music is not just a filler or a mere support—it is a character.”
— Tim Greiving
There is probably nothing more difficult than to deal with the loss of a loved one–let alone two. After Ever After deals, through the eyes of a child, a parent, and a lover, with the ways each of us have to cope with life’s travails. Musically, the challenge was to represent each of these points of view, while also following the main character’s journey of self-discovery through loss, acceptance, and rebirth. Writing the score to After Ever After was, in so many ways, a deeply emotional and personal process for me–and it is my most sincere hope this transpired, on some level, to the final work.
— Jerome Leroy
Violin solos performed by
Piano solos performed by
Strings performed by
The Macedonian Radio Symphonic Orchestra, F.A.M.E.’S. Project, Skopje (Macedonia)
Pro Tools Engineer
Score Mixed by
Momentum RLP Studios, Santa Monica
Score Produced by
Patricia Sullivan, Bernie Grundman Mastering, Hollywood
Album Art Direction by
Thank you to Rakesh Kumar, Sarah Kovacs at Kraft-Engel Management, William Ross, Oleg Kondratenko and Laurent Koppitz; Caroline and all the wonderful musicians who brought their artistry to this score; Claude Guecia and the team at Advanced Audio Rentals; Fabio Marks, Carl Schroeder, and everyone at Momentum. With very special thanks to Joel Iwataki.
This score is, more so than any other, dedicated to my 2-year old son, Joachim, and my wife, Perrine.