Before and After [Blu-ray]
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54 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2005
Skimming through the reviews for this movie, I was disappointed at a couple of the extremely harsh criticisms. While there are perhaps some elements bearing a semblance to a made-for-TV feature, "trash" seems an utterly over-the-top comment, missing the very simple point this film made. I was very moved by this movie, and watched it three times when it was new, on VHS. It's on my list of films I consider underrated and ignored by audiences, as it was simply not an exciting story per se. Something about the snow and cold seem to tamp down what action there was, and the filmmakers didn't try to broaden its appeal by pumping up the action with some cinematic gimmick. Instead, they opted to simply tell a story. You're either connected to it by its premise or you're not. I got connected early on, and I found myself almost panting in dread for the father's desperate moments as he destroyed the evidence, one of the few scenes that would pass as having any REAL action. I immediatly took his side, understood his disregard for the incorrectness of it. At the end I was heartbroken.

Every now and then, everyone lines up to praise something like SIDEWAYS (a good film; I'm not disagreeing), but the filmmakers' attempts at indie-film understatement are belied by a script full of quirky characters stimulated by equally quirky events. A film like BEFORE AND AFTER depends strictly on the familial realism in which obligation and dependability are core values, and what happens when events challenge their depth and present the necessity of risking one's own freedom in the slim hope of preserving a son's. Sometimes a more primal integrity supercede's one's obligation to the law. Nothing cute or sweet happens here, and it's strictly for mature audiences, in that the subject matter is presented soley from the adults' point of view, from their sense of responsibility and self-doubt.

Whenever I'm participating in a film newsgroup or a film subscriber-list and the subject of favorite but lesser-known films comes up, I always mention BEFORE AND AFTER. I'm glad to see that it's been released on DVD and I'm going to be ordering it as soon as I finish this review.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
This is a film that had a great premise going for it and, consequently, should have filled the screen with some semblance of suspense and drama. Unfortunately, as others have sagely pointed out, it resonates like a made for television movie, despite the stellar cast.

The film takes place in a rural area of Massachusetts, where an artist by profession, Ben Ryan (Liam Neeson), and his doctor wife, Carolyn (Meryl Streep), live with their two teenage children, Jacob (Edward Furlong) and Judith (Julia Weldon). Unbeknownst to Ben and Carolyn, Jacob is carrying on with the town's junior vixen. Things come to the fore when the young woman is found dead, and their son disappears. Naturally, things do not look good for Jacob. The well respected Ryan family suddenly find itself cast in the role of the town pariah, shunned by many of the local yokels.

Ben takes things into his own hand upon discovering evidence that would implicate Jacob in the girl's death and destroys that seemingly inculpatory evidence. When Jacob is apprehended and returned to face charges, the Ryans, upon the advice of a local attorney and friend, Wendell Bye (John Heard), obtain an experienced criminal defense attorney, Panos Demeris (Alfred Molina), for their son. Thereafter, Ben and Carolyn proceed to disregard everything that the attorney advises them to do. Moreover, they each do their own thing with respect to their son's interest, much to his detriment.

Ben comes across as a somewhat unlikable and doltish, single-minded character. While Carolyn, who seems to have a moral compass and knows the right thing to do, comes across as a foolish woman who neglects to include her son's attorney in the equation. Moreover, Bem goes and does exactly the opposite of what the attorney suggests, thinking that he knows better, as does Carolyn. The only ones in the Ryan family who are likable are our erstwhile killer and his sister.

Edward Furlong gives an excellent performance as Jacob, a young man who acts inappropriately when faced with what can only be characterized as a terrible tragedy, one that he did not foresee but perhaps should have. He ultimately finds his own moral compass, despite his father, and manages to make his troubled character sympathetic.

Meryl Streep gives a sanctimonious and priggish performance, barely able to rise above the banality of her character, while Liam Neeson's performance is best characterized as that of a bellowing bull in a china shop. Angelo Molina gives a an smoothly adept performance as the canny defense attorney who knows only too well what lies ahead for his hapless client, given the antics of Jacob's idiotic, though well-meaning, parents.

This is a drama that should have held the viewer spellbound, but which, instead, succeeds only in irritating the viewer for the most part. Moreover, the ending is absolutely ridiculous. The filmmakers should have had a legal consultant on the payroll, preferably one with a working knowledge of criminal law. If they had, they then should have considered suing whoever advised them so poorly.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Since I missed this movie when it played in theatres and love anything that Meryl Streep does and also am a big fan of the writer Rosellen Brown, whose novel the film was based on, I rented the DVD, expecting the worst, from some of the reviews I had read. I am happy to say that my time was not wasted in watching "Before and After." Meryl Streep as always is the consummate actress. When she is on the screen, you cannot take your eyes off her. Liam Neeson certainly is no slouch as an actor either.

The film stays fairly close to the story line of the novel, as best I recall. Ms. Brown's novels, though very serious, always ring true. In her world, nothing is promised. In this instance a family living in Massachusetts is torn apart when the teenage son Jacob is accused of murdering a local teenage girl. While both the novel and film are entitled "Before and After," we are dealing essentially with the "after" here, as in one moment both our entire lives and the lives of those we love can be irrevocably changed. This movie asks hard questions. To what lengths should one go to in protecting his family? Should one tell the truth no matter what the cost? Is one innocent until proven guilty?

This is certainly a film well worth watching. If you liked the movie-- or even if you didn't-- you will find the novel ever more thought-provoking.
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2004
The great shame of this movie is that it veered so terribly from the premise of the novel.
Brown's novel was so gripping and emotionally difficult precisely because Jacob did murder his girlfriend in cold blood. We struggle with the family as they come to grips with this hard truth: a seemingly "normal" family can indeed produce a dysfunctional, disturbed child and educated, thoughtful parents are often powerless to understand why. All of the dramatic power came from the adults struggling to figure out what to do with a son they don't recognize, and a younger sister knowing very well who her brother is but unable to share that information because the adults are interested in hearing it.
The movie pulled the teeth from this story when it gave us the eleventh-hour confession of Jacob's crime as *an accident*. Good grief. The movie, which wasn't very good to start with, then collapsed into unbelievable, sentimental pap.
My sympathies are with the author, who must have been appalled.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 2002
After their son is implicated in the murder of his girlfriend, parents Streep and Neeson disagree on what course of action to take. Should son Furlong tell the truth as advocated by Streep or should he go with Neeson, who has already destroyed evidence on his behalf, and make up a new version of events in an effort to remain out of jail.
The tagline of how far would you go to protect your own flesh and blood promises an awful lot more than it delivers. Indeed, it never manages to raise tension, even in scenes that by rights should be the most interesting in the movie, such as the revelation of what really happened between Furlong and his girlfriend. All performances are intact and correct; this is exactly the kind of role that fits Streep best (even though she was a whole lot more enjoyable in 'The River Wild'), Neeson is likewise very good in an unfortunately stereotypical role and even though Furlong is often typecast as the troubled teen he plays it better than any other.
However, the primary flaw is that something that promises emotion never really reaches boiling point and despite the star names you can't help but think that it all looks very much like a TV movie. All this and the ending offers no kind of conclusion or redemption for its character, leaving its audience hanging but not really caring.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2003
"Before And After" is a wonderful displiction of a family torn apart by a son's mistake. This mistake could mean them losing their son forever. Worse, he's accused of murder. As the son's temper inflames, the storyline continues to build keeping the audience's eyes attentive to ever event. The drama builds further when yet another crime is committed by another family member. The turmoil continues to keep the audience waiting impatiently for the next scene. Such series of events express the screenplay writer's capacity. He never lets down the audience. The director and the producers work at the same high level giving "Before And After" its depth and greatness.
Meryl Streep proves as always that she is one of the greatest actresses around. Her every action and word is always believable as if she's experiencing this in real life. Her role as the mother is flawless. Liam Neeson performs his role as the father with every drop of emotion dripping down his face. Edward Furlong's role as the accused son reaches the high level that few other child stars have accomplished. Alfred Molina's role as the determined attorney proves that he will reach further fame soon as he deserves. All the other actors, small or big, perform their roles wonderfully.
"Before And After" is a wonderful movie for everyone to enjoy. Some may have to watch it a second time to fully understand the series of events, but one will be glad afterwards. This is a movie no one will forget.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2014
Not even Meryl Streep, Liam Neeson and Alfred Molina could save this movie.

Spoilers: Apparently Hollywood decided to alter the script and change the story from a family dealing with the fact their son had committed a cold blooded murder to - it was just an accident but dad will falsify all the evidence anyway just to get the kid off.

The change makes the script nonsensical and the father's motivation absurd. Liam Neeson does his earnest best but just seems inexplicably crazy and volatile. Meryl Streep is totally wasted as she walks through the film looking completely detached and Alfred Molina , usually a wonderful character actor, is a caricature of an ethnic Greek criminal attorney. The kid played by Edward Furlong is sufficiently whiny and creepy to be a murderer, but is also wasted in his portrayal as a victim of an unfortunate accident.

Disappointing.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2012
A GREAT MOVIE. WE DO NOT REALIZE HOW QUICK OUR LIVES CAN CHANGE AND HOW OTHERS ARE AFFECTED BY SOME OF OUR BAD CHOICES.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2012
The acting in this film was quite good - with the possible exception of the young actor who played Jacob. He was too wooden. The film also packs a lot of intrigue. It is definitely something that you will want to continue watching. It also weaves in a lot of family dynamics and conflict, which makes it a gripping drama.

Here are some of the bad points. The lawyer and police were stereotypes. Just awful and one-dimensional. The people in the town were also one-dimensional. With the exception of one clerk at a hardware store, everyone turns against the family based on mere allegations of wrongdoing.

Also, being a lawyer influences my opinion. Others might not have the same reaction. The parents behaved foolishly. First, they took matters into their own hands despite what both lawyers told them. Also, the second lawyer did not even interview his client (Jacob) despite the many times that he reminded the parents that he represented Jacob, not them. The entire resolution of the plot is completely unrealistic.

I hate SPOILERS BUT WARNING: this last part contains SPOILERS. This case screamed for a plea agreement, but none was pursued. Judge knows it was an accident, but punishes him for not coming forward -- even though that is not a crime! No one discussed the relevance of his age to the legal proceeding, which was highly significant. He probably would not have received any jail time, and his record would have been expunged at 18. Also - there was no forensic evidence. Falling onto a jack would produce different wound patterns than being bludgeoned with one. Her appearance in the emergency room looked like a kid who was bludgeoned, but this is not true. So, the film is even more unrealistic. Also, it stereotypes lawyers way too much. Despite what you see on television and movies, lawyers do not rush to make wacky defenses. The diminished capacity argument was idiotic. No defense lawyer would have even gone there. Here's the more likely pattern in a case like this: interview the client, realize it was accidental, go to the prosecutor, discover that the evidence doesn't support the theory that it was murder, work out a deal so that no one gets jail time (first-time offenders, one a juvenile). The move barely reflects the way the legal system really works, and it perpetrates stupid stereotypes about that process. For all of these flaws, I can only give it a 3. You might not mind these things as a nonlawyer, but the unrealistic portrayal of the legal issues leads to implausible outcomes and crazy behavior by all of the characters, given the facts.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2008
To put it simply, Before and After is a story about a family of four whose lives are forever altered when their son/brother is named a prime suspect in the death of the boy's girlfriend. His father finds evidence of the crime in the trunk of his son's car and disposes of it immediately, terrified of what it all means. And so the story is also about the lengths to which a father goes to protect his son.

There's no doubt that the book is richer than the movie. I can't deny that. There are some changes that are a bit obnoxious. For example, the death scene is different. I understand why they changed it. It was necessary in order to gain more sympathy for Jacob. I think this movie was trying to show us how bad things can happen in normal families without having to ask quite so much of the viewer. Yes, it does water down the message. In fact, it completely changes the message. Not only has the death scene been Hollywoodized, so has the character of Jacob. There's that strong hint of uncontrollable anger in him, but he doesn't do the same horrible things that the book Jacob does. The tension is still there, but the dilemma is far more simplistic and commercialized. As a result, the movie feels, at times, like a lifeless version of the novel. But what do you expect? That's Hollywood. At least we still have the book for those with the initiative to read it. Just be warned, the book is quite disturbing. I read it so long ago and I don't think that I was able to appreciate all the layers to it at the time, so I can't really recommend it. But what I do know is that it's got more depth to it than the movie does.

But none of this is really helpful to those who haven't read the book. On its own, the movie makes for a compelling story but it does have some flaws. I thought the acting was OK, though the characters were a bit one-dimensional. Jacob didn't seem to express much emotion which makes it hard to relate to him. This is kind of ironic, given the fact that the movie was drastically altered to make him more sympathetic to the viewer. Honestly, though, if Jacob had been portrayed in the movie the way he was portrayed in the book, it would have been impossible to get through the film because the viciousness of his actions combined with his zero personality would have gotten to be too much. As for the plot, I think it was interesting enough, though even if you haven't read the book, you may feel like it's a bit tame.

I did really love the setting. The whole atmosphere of the movie was perfect. There's that sense of isolation from the world but it's not entirely unpleasant. In a weird way, it's almost comforting. That sounds strange, I know. I think the movie does a good job conveying both the suffocation and the love of family.
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