Before And After

The brutally mauled corpse of a teenage girl is found in a small Massachusetts town, and all the evidence seems to point to her boyfriend (Edward Furlong), the son of a local pediatrician (Meryl Streep) and sculptor (Liam Neeson) who has mysteriously disappeared. The father decides to suppress evidence before he even knows what happened. Adapted by Ted Tally (The Silence of the Lambs) from Rosellen Brown’s best-selling novel, and very well directed by Barbet Schroeder, this movie becomes an absorbing meditation on the separate claims made by family loyalty and social responsibility that both divide and unite the family (which also has a young daughter, played by Julia Weldon, who serves as narrator). Curiously, we are never told why the girl’s corpse is so badly disfigured, though everything else gets explained. Over the course of exploring this troubling all-American subject, the filmmakers do a fine job of fleshing out the major characters (I especially liked Alfred Molina as the son’s defense lawyer), and the New England locations are beautifully integrated. With Daniel Von Bargen, John Heard, Ann Magnuson, and Kaiulani Lee. (JR)

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