on December 4, 2003
This could have been a riveting, thought-provoking film IF ONLY we understood why Edward Furlong's character was so troubled. There are no real indications of dysnfunctionality, only with the mention of the boy's fight with father Liam Neeson on the day the murder occurred. Also, the resolution is anticlimactic, with Julia Weldon's voiceover narration not adequately telling us exactly how the verdict affected the family.
Meryl Streep does a fine job as always, although Carolyn sometimes seem vacuous in her understanding of what her son has done; Liam Neeson overdoes his portrayal, yet has his moments, too; Edward Furlong does nothing to evoke sympathy in his wooden, James Dean like performance; Julia Weldon is very good in the role of the narrator/sister; Alfred Molina also does a great job in his role as the no nonsense lawyer.
Truth, is it important? Should one lie to protect a loved one? The movie never lets us know who to root for...it works mainly because of the beautiful setting and Meryl's presence is always worth watching.
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.
on March 31, 2001
Despite the ignorance of this film, BEFORE AND AFTER is a truly intense and realistic suspense and drama. The acting is absolutely flawless by the entire cast, especially: Meryl Streep, Liam Neeson, Edward Furlong, and Julia Weldon. This story is about a regular, normal, every-day Massachusetts family who are Jewish. They are a very respected family in their town and almost everybody knows them. But that all changes when the son, Jacob Ryan (Edward Furlong) is accused of murdering his girlfriend and then suddenly disappearing right afterwards. His family are despartely trying to find him. Finally, he is found - in jail. He is brought home, but nothing seems the same for his family after that. Pretty soon, the entire town knows about the incident and all believe Ryan killed his girlfriend. His father, Ben Ryan (Liam Neeson), will do anything to cover-up any evidence that leads to Jacob's case. But his wife, Carolyn Ryan (Meryl Streep) and daughter, Judith Ryan (Julia Weldon), want to tell the truth even though they know what will happen to Jacob. They feel it's the right thing, since they all know the real truth. BEFORE AND AFTER is the kind of film that will make you grip the bottom of your seat until your knuckles turn as white as a ghost. It's non-stop heart pounding action. And the acting performances are just incredible. It will make you feel bad for Jacob and hope the best for him. The movie is just so realistic you forget that it's a movie and feel like you're part of it. Go and see BEFORE AND AFTER. One of the best movies of the decade!
Sulky teen Jacob Ryan (Edward Furlong) is accused of killing his girlfriend, and his parents (Meryl Streep, Liam Neeson) at first try to cover up what really happened; later, the truth comes out. Or is it the truth?
How such talented actors could make such an abysmal film is nothing short of amazing. The movie is just bad. Every word that the characters say sounds like, well, movie dialogue. None of it rings true. Everyone - from the parents, to the boy, to his little sister, to the lawyer - is way too Noble and Heroic to be believable. The pregnant pauses, pained expressions, and lofty platitudes about loving one's family and doing the right thing are over-done and just plain boring.
There's no question Streep and Neeson are fine actors, but here they over-act shamelessly and are hampered by ridiculous dialogue and a script that never quite knows where it's going. Alfred Molina is good as the lawyer, but he is still saddled with trite dialogue and courtroom drama that would have embarrassed Perry Mason. Furlong, whose specialty was playing sullen, pouty kids, sleepwalks through the movie. If he doesn't care, why should we? The corny voice-over narration saying life changes forever after an event like being accused of murder isn't true; their life seems pretty much the same afterward. I give it two stars for the picturesque New England scenery.
on June 21, 2003
With a great cast, a storyline that could have been developed into something of more interest (and which could have permitted its protagonists to show their true acting potential), and based on a book that was rather captivating, it is quite surprising that this movie was such a disappointment. The way in which it was edited (from the very beginning, when it takes nearly five minutes for any of the characters to speak one word or do anything of importance --while a piece of pseudo-mysterious classical music plays in the background) gives it a TV movie feel that lasts through the very end. The sudden and predictable denouement takes place after over an hour and a half of no character development and absolute movie boredom; even Meryl Streep's amazing acting qualities do nothing to rescue this tepid excuse for a film. Not worth buying, only worth watching on a boring Sunday afternoon when there's nothing else on the other 157 channels.
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.
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, Liam 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 did, then they should consider suing whoever advised them so poorly.
on November 23, 2002
This is one of those films that actually had a decent concept and a good cast, but somehow lost its way on the road to the cineplex. The premise - that of parents trying to protect their son, accused of murder, from being unfairly punished (and how that backfires) - is actually a perfectly good idea. And the cast is primarily comprised of very good actors, including Meryl Streep, Liam Neeson, and Alfred Molina. So what went wrong?
The story isn't strong enough, for the most part. It has the pacing of a TV movie, with a new emotional peak every five to ten minutes, and some completely superfluous arguments and conflict just to keep the tension level high. Whether Edward Furlong's character committed murder is revealed halfway through the film, and after that, there's very little interest left - you're left to sit back and wait for events to spiral into a tailspin, with the inevitable bittersweet ending. Also, the characters are rendered fairly two-dimensional; the father (Neeson) is highly-strung but willing to do anything to protect his son, while the mother (Streep) is more conflicted but prone to simply...being baffled and helpless. There is a little bit of room for depth, but the scripted characterisations are simply too shallow to be saved. Even Edward Furlong's pivotal character, the son - who should arguably be the most well-developed of them all - can be quickly pigeonholed and filed away.
Last of all, for some really strange reason, this film was and is being promoted as a mystery/thriller. It is neither of these. It's more along the lines of a tense (melo)drama, with very little mystery or thriller elements at all. It's more likely to give you a knot in your stomach than goosebumps.
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.
on September 24, 2000
About six years ago, a movie producer came to my home town with the intent of filming a movie here (and in several towns in our area). It took a while but they got the permits to film in town. The court room and the house used as the family's home in the film are both in my home town of Lee, Ma. My friend Florie was an extra in the movie. So, when the movie trailers started appearing on TV, myself and everyone in town was anxious for the film to be released. When it finally came out in theaters, i was there opening night to see a film that I hoped would be good enough for my home town.
(Here's the actual review) What I saw was a boring piece of monotonous trash that really should be more interesting than it is. It has some immensely talented actors portraying people caught in a situation that would destroy any family... in a way that nearly put me to sleep. To me, it seems like the producers feared that the movie would be too cerebral, so they made this into something that wasn't cerebral enough. It also needs a shot of adrenaline.
And it had so much potential, too.