Before and After (1996)

Genres - Drama, Mystery  |   Sub-Genres - Courtroom Drama, Family Drama  |   Release Date - Feb 23, 1996 (USA)  |   Run Time - 107 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Some compelling performances from Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson can't overcome the TV-movie qualities of this engrossing but static, lethargic melodrama that lacks the visual punch that would've made it a memorable film. The problem here is truly in the source material, which is so inherently internal that any attempt on the part of filmmaker Barbet Schroeder to open it up would've been helpful. So claustrophobic is the film that it's a surprise that screenwriter Ted Tally has adapted a novel and not a play. A caricatured performance from justifiably respected character actor Alfred Molina doesn't help matters much, and a third-act revelation that casts the entire central crime in a different light reads as an unwelcome cop-out, robbing the picture of its strongest quality up to that point: its integrity. The moral conundrums at the center of Before and After (1996) are fascinating ones and nearly Shakespearean in their sweep, certainly the fodder for a superb film. While a commendable effort on the part of everyone involved, this one simply isn't it.