Before and After (1995)

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Released 15-Sep-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1995
Running Time 103:14
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Barbet Schroeder
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Meryl Streep
Liam Neeson
Edward Furlong
Alfred Molina
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Howard Shore


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    With a cast including Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson, direction from Barbet Schroeder, who was responsible for Single White Female, and score by the acclaimed Howard Shore, I thought this film might be worth taking a look at based solely on the credentials of those involved. Furthermore, the script was written by Ted Tally, the man responsible for the magnificent The Silence Of The Lambs. Unfortunately, what starts out as a missing person/murder thriller with a bit of intrigue quickly turns out to be more of a Hallmark Channel family crisis style drama as a middle-class small-town family come to terms with the fact that one of them is a killer.

    It may seem like I have spoiled some of the key plot development with the above statement, but it is virtually impossible to tell you what this film is about without doing so. If I failed to point this fact out I feel I would actually be misleading you all as to what sort of film this is.

    Ben and Carolyn Ryan (Liam Neeson and Meryl Streep) are a successful middle-class couple living in a small town in the US. Carolyn is a doctor and well respected in the town, while Ben is a sculptor and prone to some temperamental outburst with his family. After one such argument with his son Jacob (Edward Furlong - he was John Connor in Terminator 2), the family encounters a crisis that will change their lives forever.

    When the body of a young girl is found battered and bloodied near a remote country road, the local police come knocking on the Ryan's door. Seems that Jacob was the last person seen with her and the police want to question him. Ben is aghast and angry that the police would accuse their son of such a crime, and sends the police on their way with no help given. But when Ben investigates the boot of Jacob's car parked in the garage and finds blood and other bits splattered around, he is horrified and worried about what his son has gotten involved in. But it seems Jacob is missing and instead of trying to assist the police to find him, Ben, in a moment of sheer lunacy destroys the evidence. He thinks protecting his family is far more important than getting to the truth.

    Jacob eventually surfaces and admits to his parents that he did in fact kill the girl - but it was an accident. The story moves from its original thriller intentions and now becomes more of a moral drama. It attempts to deal with the lengths a normal everyday family will go to in an effort to protect their own, even if they are a murderer and as guilty as hell. Each of the family members struggles to come to terms with the decisions made by Jacob, Ben, and the family lawyer, but these decisions will ultimately change the way they lead their lives.

    Unfortunately, the film then turns into something more akin to a made-for-television drama with a happy (or should that be sappy) moralistic tale at its conclusion. That's a shame, as the original premise had merit and the build-up was quite intriguing.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Much like the other Buena Vista release that I reviewed recently, Consenting Adults, the transfer for Before and After contains quite a few problems, some of them strikingly similar. The first issue is with the aspect ratio, which is modified from its original theatrical aspect of 1.85:1. What we get here is the somewhat unfortunate aspect ratio of 1.66:1. Worse still is the lack of 16x9 enhancement.

    You could not call this transfer sharp. It is really quite soft, which is no doubt not helped by the non-anamorphic transfer. Shadow detail suffers on several occasions, most notably in the early scenes which are all at night and very dark. Thankfully, grain is actually quite minimal and not all that bothersome. There is no low level noise.

    Colours are fairly bland. Set in a North American winter, there isn't a whole lot of vibrancy on offer. Even the interior shots are all muted and depressed looking, in keeping with the tone of the film. Skin tones are fine, although Edward Furlong's character does look a little pasty.

    There are no MPEG artefacts. Aliasing pops up quite frequently. The worst examples occur at 7:52 on a fireplace and at 92:30 on some red brickwork. Unfortunately, film artefacts are abundant and some of them are easily among the biggest I have ever seen. Check out the incredibly large scratch at 2:46 and 3:10 and a large splotch at 14:51. There is also an annoying hair or something similar stuck in either the lens or the telecine during the opening credits between 0:10 and 1:35.

    There are only two subtitle streams available, both of them being English varieties. I sampled both for much of the film and found them excellent.

    This disc is single sided and single layered so there is no layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is only the one soundtrack on this disc. It is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track in English, encoded at the lower bitrate of 384 kb/s.

    This isn't exactly what I'd call demonstration material with basically no surround channel use. There is enough panning and other directional effects across the front soundstage but overall it is dominated by the centre channel.

    The dialogue is clear at all times and I witnessed no audio sync problems.

    The score is by the renowned Howard Shore and is far better than your normal clichéd thriller/drama score, adding suitable mood and tension, especially in the earlier scenes.

    There is basically no surround activity, and the subwoofer is only called on a couple of times. It isn't really missed.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    No extras are included on this disc.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This title has not yet been released in Region 1, but from what information I can obtain it appears that that version will be the same as this one.

Summary

    Before and After has promise. The plot is an interesting one, and you can't help but ask what you would do if placed in similar circumstances. But ultimately it drags out into something more akin to a made-for-television film than a serious drama/thriller. The acting of Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson as the frustrated parents is excellent, but the performance from Edward Furlong is a performance so similar to his rebellious John Connor from four years earlier that it is little wonder he has vanished into acting oblivion.

    The video quality is disappointing. The aspect ratio is not original, and the number of film artefacts for a film less than ten years old is staggering.

    The audio is functional for the type of film. Not startling, but without flaw.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Thursday, October 09, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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