Plot: What’s it about?
It seems films like Before and After just aren’t made as much today like they once were. I comment often about how films geared more towards adults don’t dominate like they used to. I recall my mother and her friends seeing movies when I was younger all throughout the 90’s and even the early 2000’s. If she and some friends were to go to the movies, let’s say as of this writing, I’m unsure just what they would go to see. Sure there was Green Book recently and even The Book Club was one example, but the market has changed so much. Superhero films and animation are by and large what we get most of. That and the endless remakes, but I digress. While Before and After might not be remembered as the best films of either Liam Neeson or Meryl Steep’s careers, you could also do much worse. It tells a fairly gripping story about a tragedy that nearly tears a family apart. Performances by the two leads are great and Edward Furlong does ok even if he can’t quite match the others. I had seen the film once before years back and recall enjoying it, but seeing it again for this review was a bit refreshing as a lot of it seemed new again.
Jacob (Edward Furlong) has gone missing. There has been an accident and Carolyn (Meryl Streep), Jacob’s mother is a doctor, sees the victim, Martha Taverner at the hospital where she works. She has been killed. When she arrives home that evening, she and her husband, Ben (Liam Neeson) and daughter, Judith (Julia Weldon) get a visit from a sheriff, who informs them of what’s going on and says their son was the last one to be seen with Martha. Ben is rather quick to get defensive and Carolyn had no clue her son had been seeing this girl. The problem is that Jacob is nowhere to be found. The sheriff hopes to search Jacob’s vehicle, but Ben refuses, saying that he needs a search warrant, which he gets, but not before Ben goes into the garage and gets rid of the evidence. Things are becoming a bit clearer and this sets up the stage for the rest of the film. They have a friend who is a lawyer, played by John Heard, but he tells them that he doesn’t handle this sort of case and that’s when he refers them to Panos Demeris (Alfred Molina) who takes a very serious, no nonsense type of approach and agrees to take their case and represent their son.
I’ve purposely left out some plot points to try not to reveal too much, but the film does eventually lead to a courtroom and the truth is revealed to the Ryans by their son. This is far from a perfect film, but in some ways, the flaws make it appear more authentic. We may disagree with some of the things the family does, especially the father, and obviously the son, but it does show how far the love of parents can go for their son even if they’re not doing the right thing. It might not be the most thought provoking film I’ve ever seen, but there’s definitely a discussion to be had after viewing it. While the film is somewhat forgotten today, I do think it needs to be seen. Whether owning it to watch over and over again is something you’d like, I can’t say. I do advise at least renting it, though.
Video: How’s it look?
We get a solid 1.85:1 AVC encoded transfer that does justice for the film. There are some strong exterior shots, but mostly this is set indoors, but detailed remained strong. Flesh tones are accurate and colors are rich and bold, with no obvious issues detected. The print has a clean look to it as well.
Audio: How’s it sound?
I read that the previous version had a 5.1 track. Sadly, this disc only has a 2.0, but is still good overall. I would’ve liked a bit strong vocals, but the clarity is certainly there. I kept the volume a little higher, but it’s a fairly basic films in terms of audio, so this track does serve it about as well as it should.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary – Director Barbet Schroeder and Editor Lee Percy sit together for a chat. It’s a pretty routine track, discussing the basics and giving a pretty detailed description of what we’re watching.
- Theatrical Trailer
The Bottom Line
They don’t make a lot of films like this anymore. I wish they did. Still, this one should be seen. It’s somewhat forgotten and isn’t a perfect film, but it tells a strong story that isn’t entirely predictable. It’s the kind of film that stays with you and warrants some discussion.