A comedy-drama about adultery and long-term marital affection, Alan Rudolph's Afterglow (1997) rises and falls on the strength of his cast. Replete with Rudolph's signature touches -- from the roving camera and long takes, to stylized sets and synchronic lives -- the story of de facto mate-swapping involving a young, upwardly mobile couple and an older handyman and faded B-movie actress ruminates on the myriad motives that compel the married to stray. Though Lara Flynn Boyle and Jonny Lee Miller were adjudged to be less than satisfying as the tightly wound younger couple, Nick Nolte's sympathetic Lothario, Lucky Mann, and particularly Julie Christie's haunted Phyllis Mann elevated the proceedings. Christie's luminously complex performance and mature beauty easily show how Phyllis can still outshine women half her age (quietly needling the Hollywood fascination with youth), while she masterfully reveals the unfathomable despair that has come to rule Phyllis' life. Even reviewers less than enthusiastic about Afterglow's tone shifts and ambiguities hailed Christie, and she went on to win numerous critics' awards and an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
by Lucia Bozzola review