Tag Archives: Drama

Daisies (1966)

daisies 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Girlfriends rebel from society.

Two young women (Ivana Karbanova, Jitka Cerhova) who are both named Marie decide that society has nothing to offer them and that they will not comply with its norms. They then proceed to jaunt through the streets of Prague causing havoc and destruction everywhere they go and with everyone they meet while also trying to find themselves and their true purpose in life.

This film is similar to Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, which was released the same year. Both films rely heavily on quick edits, jump cuts, bizarre imagery and unconventional narrative structures. The only difference is that at least Persona had a story behind it and two interesting characters. This film has neither. The two women behave too strangely to be relatable and the scenes seem disconnected. This is one film that takes the avant-garde, experimental approach to the most extreme. The result is a bit off-putting and took me until the halfway mark before I could get into it. Others may not even make it that far. Personal taste will gauge how much one gets into it as well as how much they get out of it.

On a completely visual level it is fascinating. The film goes from being black-and-white to color and then back again at random intervals. There is one scene in a restaurant where the scene changes to a different color filter each time a character speaks a different line of dialogue. The segment showing photos of a variety of butterflies done at a rapid fire pace is also interesting. The best part is probably near the end when the girls walk into a banquet hall and proceed to eat up all the food that is in it. In fact the film shows an amazing amount of eating. It seems like every other shot has the girls stuffing their mouths with some sort of edible. However, instead of making you hungry it ends up kind of grossing you out.

If there is anything that got on my nerves it was director Vera Chytilova’s use of sound. There was too much repetition of noises. For instance in the opening scene there is what sounds like a squeaking door that is implemented after each actress says her line that quickly becomes irritating. The slobbering, chewing sound as the girls eat the banquet food is overdone as is their background whispering that occurs near the end.

Many feel this is a movie about budding feminism and I would agree on that for the most part. I enjoyed how the women did not feel that they needed a man in their life to ‘be whole’ and in many ways seemed to manipulate and make fun of the male characters, or simply become bored with them especially when the men would convey to them their ‘undying love’.  However, to me it was more about the rebelling and disdain of the communist regime and living in an environment that promoted hard work and not much else. I liked the segment at the end where the two women proceed to be ‘good’ instead of ‘bad’ and try to clean up the mess that they made while trying to convince themselves that working hard will make them happy even though it really doesn’t.

I’ve seen a lot of weird sixties movies, but this one tops them all by a mile. It certainly doesn’t seem dated and easily transcends its era. Not only was it ahead-of-its-time, but I would maintain that it STILL is.

Although the runtime is listed as being 74 minutes the version I saw, which was from Czech New Wave, came out to being only an hour.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: December 30, 1966

Runtime: 1Hour

Not Rated

Director: Vera Chytilova

Studio: Ustredni

Available: DVD

I Can Make You Love Me (1993)

stalking laura 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Stalking is his passion.

To any true film fan TV-Movies have always been considered vastly inferior to the theatrical kind and I would be the first to agree.  However, there is one area where they can shine and that is in their depictions of true-life crimes. Mainly this is because they give it more time as they are usually shown in two parts over consecutive nights.  Also, their lower budgets worked better in recreating the docu-drama style.

Over the years there have been some classics in this area that have helped bring substance to the headlines as well as a better understanding of the victims, the perpetrators and the investigation. Some of the best that I would suggest would be Helter Skelter (1976) starring the Emmy-award winning Steve Railsback as Charles Manson.  The Deliberate Stranger (1986) with Mark Harmon as serial killer Ted Bundy.  There is also Deadly Intentions (1985), A Death in California (1984) with Cheryl Ladd as a woman who falls in love with her rapist, and my personal favorite Fatal Vision (1984) about the infamous Dr. Jeffrey Macdonald.

This film deals with the case of Richard Farley (Richard Thomas) that helped develop California’s first anti-stalking laws. Farley was a pudgy, middle-aged man who worked as a computer programmer at a company named ESL in Sunnyvale, California in 1984.  He had been there for 9 years and had no criminal record, but became unhinged when he met an attractive 23- year- old new employee named Laura Black (Brooke Shields).  He began to follow her around constantly as well as sending her gifts and love letters on a daily basis.  When she refused his advances he became even more persistent.  This continued for 4 years until, through his obsession, he ended up losing his job, his house, and his entire life savings, but his stalking continued. Black finally filed a restraining order against him, which sent him into a rage.  He armed himself with an array of guns, stormed the company and shot seven employees including Black, who managed to survive.

Unlike some of the previous movies that I mentioned above, this film did not get the two-part treatment.  Everything that happened gets crammed into 95 minutes, which makes a lot of it seem rushed.  Although the events took place over a four year period, the movie gives you the impression that it was just a few quick months. For the sake of time the film seems to leave certain interesting facts out, which is a shame.  For instance, in real-life Farley actually stood in front of Black’s house for hours going through every conceivable combination on her garage door opener until he was finally able to crack it.  There are also certain things that Farley expressed to Black through his letters that he ends up telling verbally to her here, which causes some of the dialogue to seem awkward.

The film was also not given much of a budget.  It was filmed on a grainy, videotape type of film stock that looks like it was done on somebody’s camcorder.  The story took place in California and yet for whatever reason it ended up being filmed in Topeka, Kansas and the differences in the landscapes are obvious and even a bit disconcerting.

Where the film really seems to come together is during the final 30 minutes where it recreates the office shooting. This sequence is well choreographed and makes you feel like you are right there.  The conversations that Farley has with the negotiator during these scenes are revealing.  I was confused after reading the accounts of the incident as to why Farley would have only shot Black once (in the shoulder) and then allowed her to escape.  Apparently, through his conversations with the negotiator, this was his intention.  He only wanted to injure her and then force her to survive so she would have to live with the ‘guilt’ of having ‘caused’ this by refusing to go out with him.

Another big selling point is the performances of the two leads. Richard Thomas as Farley is astounding.  He does not resemble the actual Farley, but makes up for it with a convincing portrayal that leaves a lasting impression. Shields is excellent as well. Normally I never gave her much credit in the past, but found a new appreciation for her acting ability here.  She does an especially good job during the scenes where she is shot and trying to escape.  It seemed like she was genuinely stressed and in real pain.

Another thing I liked here is that the character of Laura Black is portrayed as being very determined, resourceful, and strong.  She had to struggle with the company about this matter as initially they sided with Farley and was convinced that she must have ‘lead him on’. I felt it was a testament to her strength that she continued to keep working at the company and was still working there five years later when this film was made.

If you find true-life crimes to be intriguing and enjoy seeing them recreated to help your understanding of them, then TV-movies are you best source for this type of genre.  I felt that this case, with its myriad of psychological implications, was no different.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: February 9, 1993

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Alternate Title: Stalking Laura

Not Rated

Director: Michael Switzer

Studio: Leonard Hill Films

Available: DVD

The Student Nurses (1970)

student nurses

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Nurses have special medicine.

Unlike its billing this is NOT a T&A drive-in picture. Yes there is some sex and nudity, but not much and certainly not enough to satisfy the voyeur. The movie is basically just strained, hackneyed drama detailing the lives of four young student nurses (Elaine Giftos, Karen Carlson, Brioni Farrell, and Barbara Leigh). That is so mechanical that you almost wish it did take more of a sleazy, silly route.

The most contrived segment has nurse Giftos trying to bring happiness to an embittered teen with cystic fibrosis. It’s handled with all the same annoying clichés as an episode of one of those old cardboard medical TV shows. The only twist here is that on his last night of life she strips and goes to bed with him, which just makes it even more inane.

The one unique sequence deals with a surprisingly long, drawn out abortion. The woman having the procedure starts to hallucinate under the anesthesia and sees herself having an abortion on a public beach with all sorts of onlookers including young children and a couple of surfer dudes watching.

The film also offers a rare chance to see Katherine ‘Scotty’ Macgreoger. She played Mrs. Olson on the old “Little House on the Prairie” TV show, but did little else outside of that. Here she plays Miss Boswell the girl’s teacher. She has the same controlling, cold exterior as her TV character. She even threatens to dock a girl a full grade point if she doesn’t start to wear longer skirts.

The four female leads are stunningly beautiful. They look and behave very much the same way as a pretty young girl of today would. Unfortunately their acting is terrible and the way they deliver their lines is almost torturous to listen to. It also gets annoying the way they are portrayed. One minute they are liberated and horny and then the next minute they are sweet All-American girls just trying to do the right thing.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: December 2, 1970

Runtime: 1Hour 29Minutes

Rated R

Director: Stephanie Rothman

Studio: New World Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD

Frantic (1988)


By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Where is his wife?

Dr. Richard Walker (Harrison Ford) and his wife Sondra (Betty Buckley) travel to Paris where he is to take part in a medical conference. They find when they get to the hotel room that they have a suitcase that looks like theirs, but is the wrong one. They call the mistake into baggage claims, but think nothing more of it. As Richard takes a shower his wife gets a call and then disappears. When Richard gets out of the shower he can’t find her anywhere. Asking around he finds some clues that leads him to believe that she was kidnapped and that it may have something to do with the mysterious suitcase.

The film starts out well with an interesting premise and some good Hitchcockian touches, but eventually it becomes just another conventional thriller that gets overblown and is full of loopholes. One that really annoyed me the first time I saw it has to do with Richard going to a local bar to ask if anyone has any information. He does this twice and both times a bar patron that is sitting next to him overhears the conversation and comes up with a crucial bit of information. If this were to happen once it would be considered a really lucky break, but to happen twice makes it seem too convenient and coincidental. However, the biggest plot hole is when the bad guys come to the hotel to kidnap the wife and hold her for ransom until they get their suitcase when instead they should have just taken the suitcase since it was RIGHT THERE to begin with.

Ford’s brash demeanor doesn’t seem particularly right for the part. Normally he can get away with it and even make it charming in a caustic sort of way, but here it doesn’t work. I did like that everything is seen from his point of view and the viewer is as perplexed as he is about the circumstances. One part has him crumpling up a piece of paper and eating it and I kept wondering how many takes they made him go through on that one before they got it right.

Emmanuelle Seigner, who at the time was director Roman Polanski’s girlfriend, comes off best. The two married about a year after the film was released and now 23 years and 2 kids later they are still a couple. She plays Michelle who Richard meets along the way and helps him find the bad guys with her inside information. I liked her youthful appeal and the contrasting ages and perspectives between her and Ford’s character make their scenes together interesting. However, the punk outfit she wears does nothing for her and looks tacky and at this point woefully out of style.

The on-location shooting in Paris helps give the film an extra appeal. I realize this is mainly because of Polanski’s exile there, but it is to the film’s benefit. I liked how the viewer mainly just sees the street scenes and local pubs and roadways giving the whole thing a sort of tourist perspective.

There is one exciting and very well filmed sequence showing Richard walking on a narrow and steep rooftop in order to get into Michelle’s apartment that proves to be the film’s most intense moment. Otherwise this thing never clicks and tends to get less suspenseful as it goes on. For basic entertainment it is okay, but there is little if any payoff. This pales badly alongside Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’avventura, which is another film with pretty much the same premise, but instead that one takes things in a much more offbeat, fascinating, and mind-expanding direction.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: February 26, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 59Minutes

Rated R

Director: Roman Polanski

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

Alice’s Restaurant (1969)

alices resturaunt 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Nobody likes the draft.

Attempt at making a movie out of Arlo Guthrie’s famous 18-minute song, which in itself was based on actual events succeeds for the most part although it seems to be biting off little more than it can chew. Pat Quinn plays Alice a middle-aged woman who along with her husband Ray (James Broderick) buys a church and turns it into a hippie retreat as well as a restaurant. Arlo plays himself and a friend of the couple who helps them in their endeavor. Things go well for a while, but then infighting, the draft, the death of some of the members, and basic overall disorganization do it all in.

Although Guthrie’s song has a bouncy, upbeat, and humorous quality to it the movie works in an opposite fashion. There are a lot of long dramatic takes with a tone that is overall downbeat and depressing. To some extent it succeeds at giving the viewer a vivid look at the late 60’s experience, but compared to the song it seems to be a bit of a letdown. However, there are still some great moments that will connect with you on a purely emotional level. One of them is seeing legendary folk singer Pete Seeger and Arlo playing a song for Arlo’s bedridden father Woody (Joseph Boley) and another includes the sights and sounds of an outdoor wintry funeral for one of their troubled friends.

There are some good comedic moments, but they all come pretty much in the second half making the film seem a bit disjointed and almost like two films rolled into one. The best moments in this area include Arlo’s attempts at dumping out garbage, which features a lot of good quick edits as well as the actual Officer William Obanhein mentioned in the song. Arlo’s army physical is also quite funny especially his experiences in the ‘Group W’ room, which also has an early appearance by character actor M. Emmet Walsh who talks so fast that he becomes incoherent.

The idea of casting Arlo in the lead works to some extent. Obviously the presence in his own story makes it more authentic, but he also seems too detached and shows little if any emotional range. He also looks incredibly young almost like he is only 14.

It is Broderick who comes off best and this is easily his best performance of his otherwise sporadic career. He seems light years away from the more conservative, fatherly figure that he played in the 70’s TV-show ‘Family’ and the fact that the character here is a middle-aged man trying to submerge himself with the youth movement while displaying obvious frailties in the process makes him fascinating to watch and help give the film an added layer.

When I first saw this film years ago I came away feeling that it was too downbeat and disjointed, but upon second viewing I have a greater appreciation for it. It seems now more prophetic and forewarning to the beginning of the end of the hippie movement and how their carefree youthful ideals simply weren’t going to survive amidst the harsh, practical realities of the world that it was in. The long, continuous shot of Alice’s sad, forlorn expression seen at the very end seems to be conveying this and thus makes this movie less of a relic and more perceptive than most people may realize.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: August 20, 1969

Runtime: 1Hour 51Minutes

Rated R

Director: Arthur Penn

Studio: United Artists

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

The Family (1970)

the family

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Hit man wants revenge.

Jeff (Charles Bronson) is a retired hit man who finds himself set-up and nearly killed by girlfriend Vanessa (Jill Ireland). When he unexpectedly survives the ambush he plots his revenge by planning on killing her as well as her secret lover who put her up to it, but along the way he becomes harassed by Al (Telly Savalas) who wants to bring Jeff into their crime organization any way they can.

The movie features a great acid rock-like soundtrack that pumps the adrenaline and gives the proceedings a nice edgy feel. The scene where Jeff shoots a man from a distance while the victim is participating in a car race and blowing out his tire, which sends him crashing through a brick wall, is creative. However, the best part of the whole movie, which comes at the end and almost makes sitting through it worth it, is watching two people getting shot as they ride up a glass elevator by a gunman sitting on top of a roof of a building from across the street.

On the whole though the film, which credits six writers to the screenplay and includes the legendary Lina Wertmuller is rather standard. Somehow it always seems the more people that work on the screenplay the less creative it becomes and this proves no exception. The characters are one-dimensional and the twists aren’t all that clever. Outside of the action sequences the story plods at too slow of a pace and you feel the whole time you are watching it that you’ve seen it all before.

For a savvy hit-man Jeff seems to be too much of a pushover. I can understand getting double-crossed once, but then he keeps going back to Vanessa and she does it to him again and again making him seem like a schmuck. The Vanessa character is equally annoying.  She is too wishy-washy and would have gotten a better emotional response from the viewer had she been better defined, or written as being a complete and total bitch.

Bronson is okay in the lead although he doesn’t have too much to say, which is good. His best moments come when he is silent particularly the scene inside the prison cell when he allows a giant tarantula spider to crawl all over him while he serenely sits smiling and the other prisoners look on with shock and awe.

Ireland looks great as always and shows a lot of skin. There is a scene where there is a close-up of her breasts as well as her backside while she is lying in bed. There is a moment of frontal nudity when she gets out of shower and she can be seen through the slightly fogged glass of the shower door. However, her face is always conveniently hidden during all of these shots making me believe that a body double was used although none is credited.

Savalas, who is the only one that gives the film any real energy, is wasted and doesn’t appear until the second half.

The complete and uncut version of the film done on the recent Blue Underground DVD release features scenes that were omitted from earlier English language prints. Unfortunately because these scenes where never dubbed into English they are shown in their original Italian language format. This becomes quite distracting as characters will be speaking in English and then during the same scene start talking in Italian and then back to English. The DVD features subtitles during these moments, but the version on Amazon Instant Video, which is what I saw, doesn’t. What is worse is the fact that these added scenes really don’t add much and they could have just been left on the cutting room floor. Fans will many times flock to purchase the ‘complete and uncut’ versions of films while failing to realize that there was probably a reason this extra footage was cut in the first place, which is namely that they were perceived as being boring or pointless and usually are.

If you are looking for non-think formula action that has just enough style to make it passable then this film should fit the bill, but it is no classic.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Alternate Title: Violent City

Released: September 17, 1970

Runtime: 1Hour 49Minutes

Rated R

Director: Sergio Sollima

Studio: Universal Film

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video (as ‘Violent City’)

Happiness (1998)

happiness 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Happiness can be elusive.

Sharply tuned, interweaving group of vignettes all pertaining to that elusive paradox known as happiness. Jane Adams plays the single woman who is never able to find Mr. Right. Then when she thinks she does he turns into very much of a Mr. Wrong. Louise Lasser and Ben Gazzara, who are in what is probably the funniest segment, play an older couple whose marriage has lost its zing. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, in another dynamic performance, plays the composite nerd who gets off on giving obscene phone calls. Then there’s Camryn Manheim a woman everyone overlooks, but shouldn’t because she holds a dangerous secret.

There are times when this otherwise good film tries to be a little too hip and trendy, which doesn’t help. Although the characters are quite interesting in their eccentricities, they never seem to interact with each other like real people even if they are a little strange. In the case of Lara Flynn Boyle her affected way of talking becomes quite annoying.

On the whole though this film is quite compelling and has moments that really pack a punch. Although billed as a dark comedy it is really more of a drama. In the case of the affluent psychiatrist (Dylan Baker), who has a sexual penchant for his young son’s friend, it becomes downright unsettling and disturbing.

Yet it is the inner angst of these characters and how they deal with modern daily life that truly is what hits home. These people are complex and at times very confused with themselves. They are socially and sexually dysfunctional. They may, despite your reluctance, remind you or your own friends, co-workers, and family or even yourself. It truly shows how fragmented our society is and even gives us a hint as to why. After all how can one connect with someone else when they are so disconnected with themselves?

This is, as a whole, a great movie. It has scenes and characters that will stay with you long after it is over. However, only a select few will really enjoy it. Namely those who enjoy seeing things torn down and then exposed for what they really are.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: October 16, 1998

Runtime: 2Hours 14Minutes

Rated R

Director: Todd Solondz

Studio: Good Machine

Available: DVD

American Movie (1999)

american movie

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: He needs a life.

Supposedly this is a documentary about all the troubles a young would-be filmmaker has trying to film a low budget independent movie. In actuality it is the rather stark portrait of how elusive the American dream is to the low income citizen and yet how hard they still dream for it. It creates a truly absurd scenario of desperation that could only work if it was real and not the work of fiction.

The film is tightly woven without the extraneous footage one usually finds with most documentaries. We are given a well-rounded look at these people and feel like we know them. There is some question as to whether these subjects are shown so we can learn something from it or just to laugh at them, but either way it is thoroughly engrossing.

Mark Borchardt, the would-be director, is definitely the main attraction. He talks with a heavy Wisconsin accent and is the quintessential ‘pothead’. He is a man, who by his own admission spent his entire adolescence drinking and partying. Now that he must get serious about life, he resists by clinging onto his movie making dreams. His movie idea is uninspired slasher film stuff that is taken from other more successful films. He hopes to duplicate that success and thus ride it’s coattails out of his otherwise woeful existence. He is as empty headed as he looks and sounds. Yet he still puts on a mighty song and dance. He is like an aggressive used car salesman, dishonest politician and ranting street preacher who talks a lot, but says little.

He is surrounded by equally interesting people. You have his Swedish accented mother who passively supports her son in his endeavors, yet reluctantly admits he has no chance. Then there’s cantankerous frail, old Uncle Bill. He is a man who doesn’t talk much, but when he does make a peep it is a doozy. You also have a rather touching bond between Mark and his best friend Mike. A fellow ‘pothead’ who looks and sounds like he is barely functional, yet still assists his friend in all his filmmaking problems even though he himself really isn’t that interested in it.

This thing is literally amazing from start to finish. A few of the gems include: the many, many takes they have to do before old Uncle Bill can say one line of simple dialogue correctly. Then there’s the would-be director himself, who works part time as a custodian at a cemetery, describing his ‘profound’ experience at cleaning up a clogged, messy toilet. There’s even a near comatose friend Mike who breaks out and gives the shrillest special effects scream you will ever hear.

If you like to view people just being themselves then this slice of life comes highly recommended.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: January 11, 1999

Runtime: 1Hour 47Minutes

Rated R

Director: Chris Smith

Studio: Bluemark Productions

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Tall Story (1960)

tall story

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: The game is rigged.

June Ryder (Jane Fonda) is a boy-crazy college coed who has her sights set on Ray Blent (Anthony Perkins) the star of the school’s basketball team. Ray ends up being as infatuated with June as she is with him and the two decide to get married, but before they do they purchase a motor home from Ray’s friend Fred (Tom Laughlin). Unfortunately they don’t have enough of the required money until a mysterious stranger gives Ray $2,500 to blow the upcoming game his team has with the Russians, which puts Ray in a difficult quandary.

The film has a nice fluffy appeal and was based on the hit stage play, which in turn was based on the novel ‘The Homecoming Game’ by Howard Nemerov. The college campus atmosphere for its time period seems realistic. It is refreshing to have the adult faculty portrayed as normal human beings relating to the students on a relatively equal level and vice versa as opposed to the trend that started in the 70’s and went full-throttle in the 80’s where adults in these types of films were written as preachy, oppressive, out-of-touch, authoritative humorless pricks. In fact Marc Connelly as Professor Osman was my favorite character as he looked and spoke like a true professor and helped balance the silliness by being the most normal of the bunch. Anne Jackson as the wife of Professor Sullivan (Ray Walston) comes in a close second and has some amusing moments and a few good comeback lines particularly near the end.

Fonda is perfect as a character lost in her own little world and enthusiastically going by the beat of her own drummer while oblivious to the consternation she causes to those around her. Initially the character is written a little too aggressively making her too deluded and like a stalker, but fortunately that gets toned down and she becomes likable enough. Perkins is great as her boyish counterpart and the two even sing a duet together.

The pacing is a bit poor. Initially it is very zany and fast paced making the thing seem almost like a live action cartoon, which doesn’t work at all. The film then slows down and becomes a draggy only to rectify things with a funny conclusion. If you like things that are cute and undemanding then this should work although the sequence in which Ray comes into the game and singlehandedly wins the game after the team is far behind is just too contrived and over-blown for even Hollywood standards. The humor is light and comes in spurts with some of it managing to elicit a few chuckles. One of the few interchanges that I liked consisted of:

June: “Did you know that elephants only mate once every seven years?”

Ray: “There are some that do it every six years.”

June: “They’re nymphomaniacs”

Spoiler Alert!

One of the biggest problems with the film is the ending as Ray decides to play in the game and win it for his team despite keeping the money that he was paid in order to throw it. However, there is just no way a criminal organization would let anyone keep that money especially when the other party did not uphold their end of the bargain. Most likely they would track down Ray and June and exact a very unpleasant revenge. However, the film never even touches on this and instead shows Ray and June buying the motorhome and riding happily off into the sunset while leaving open a major loophole in the process.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: April 6, 1960

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Joshua Logan

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS, DVD (Warner Archive), Amazon Instant Video

Before and After (1996)

before and after

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Son is a murderer.

This is a solid drama based on the novel by Rosellen Brown detailing how a family copes after their teenage son Jacob (Edward Furlong) is accused of killing his girlfriend.

Thoroughly engrossing and believable from beginning to end and full of intriguing plot twists. It is fascinating how it examines things from a completely unique perspective namely the family members of the perpetrator, which is rarely ever done. The story is also interesting in that it gets the viewer too become quite attached to Furlong who plays the accused. The film forces the viewer to face and question their own moral judgments, which is good since many films these days seem timid at digging too deeply into anything of a serious nature or forcing the viewer to confront any of their own preconceived notions.

On the negative end the film lacks cinematic style and at times almost looks like it is a TV-movie. Meryl Streep is okay as Jacob’s mother, but this is definitely not one of her better performances. There is a love making scene between her and Liam Neeson that looks mechanical and is completely unnecessary. Viewers who have had family members or friends that have been victims of crimes may find themselves upset with some of the moral conclusions.

Overall this is a strong drama that presents a lot of issues that are timely and haven’t been done anywhere else. Despite a lack of flair or visual style it is still an excellent piece of storytelling with an outstanding performance by Furlong.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: February 23, 1996

Runtime: 1Hour 48Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Barbet Schroeder

Studio: Caravan Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video