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Robert De Niro,
When teenage son Jacob is being accused of murdering his girlfriend, the well-respected and close-knit Ryan family is in turmoil. Jacob flees, father Ben destroys possible evidence, the village community turns hostile and mother Carolyn is forced to temporarily close her doctor's practice. Then Jacob gets arrested and soon finds himself and his family entangled in a web of truth, trust and lies, all on his way to court. Written by
Swie Tio <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In the scene where Meryl Streep enters a court room to appear in front of the grand jury in the front row (in the middle of the frame) sits a young Paul Giamatti as an extra his head turned around to have a look at her. See more »
When Ben and Jacob pull to the side of the road and get out of the car to talk, the right blinker is on. When they get back in, the blinker is off. See more »
Reading the majority of comments about "Before and After," I wanted to guess the commentators'ages (mostly in their twenties - thirties?) and to assume that they were either childless or had never raised teenagers. As announced by the young voice when the movie opens, this is a story of daily life that was changed in an instant, and that afterwards, the family was never the same again. It sounds like a tautology, but most of our lives are not interesting enough as material for the movies, and it is a rare script and director that can show "daily life" and have anyone praise its results. Ordinary dialogue, too, is a challenge, because people as a rule don't speak in great cadences. Moreover, if one is looking at the movies today, anything that is not "family drama" contains a volley of expletives that passes for dialogue. So it is understandable that this movie did not rate high in the minds of the x-generation.
As a parent of teens, however, I found the film quite true to life. It's basically about how parents respond to a dire family crisis and how they must adjust to each other as a unit. We see how the son, as played by young Ed Furlong, is affected by the shock of this event. As an actor, his fine portrayal as the sensitive young writer in "Grass Harp" is a parallel role and should be mentioned. As for the parents, Streep was drawing on her experience as a mother of three and was not "acting" in the way one saw her in her obviously great roles, such as "Sophie's Choice" or "Out of Africa." This was a subtler challenge for her. With Neeson, also a father in real life, he chose to portray the father as impulsive, strong and the embodiment of unconditional parental love. I felt that the parents were meant to be somewhat opposites and complementary-- she contemplative, more intellectual and sympathetic, he aggressive, protective and reactive.
Some viewers were disturbed by the unbalanced and unsympathetic portrayal of the dead girl's mother and the dead girl herself. How could it be otherwise and not be told from Jacob or Jude's point of view? This is not "Rashomon" -- we were not meant to have different points of view defended. However, the very casting of the mother and of the girl friend as being less well educated and of a different "class," was obvious, and another "true thing" that often happens in families. Here, however,it is not the parents' disapproval that is important, but how they respond to their son's guilt.
Some viewers might say that my comments betray my being manipulated. Well, all viewers are being manipulated in any movie, and a measure of whether we like the movie or not, is whether we resent or do not mind being manipulated as the writer and director wished us to be. If someone watched this movie hoping for the suspense of a crime drama, they won't like it. If someone watched this hoping for dramatic acting as in the Oscar-winning roles of Streep or Neeson (I would have cited "Lamb" as his earliest and strongest), then they also would be disappointed. And if someone were watching this expecting something other than a presentation of daily life, then they would also be disappointed, because they would have found it flat, bland, even trite- until something dramatic, like the accident on Jacob's fateful date-- happens to jolt its members out of their routine and their complacency. That is what this movie is about.
I found myself agreeing with the entire gamut of the parents' reactions (which some viewers found "stupid"), but that is how parents (and even children) often behave in a crisis. I also found myself understanding both Jacob's and his sister's emotions. Jude didn't have many lines, but those she spoke were true and thought-provoking coming from a youngster of that age and maturity. One other crucial point is how the actors responded to each other as members of a family, and I found that they were not only well cast, but were all up to the challenge, delivering themselves quite honorably. This incident could have happened to any ordinary family, and there but for the grace of God, go I.
Of four ****, I rate three and a half.
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