before/during/after review – The Saddest Movie I’ve Enjoyed in a While

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Title: before/during/after
Directors: 
Stephen Kunken, and Jack Lewars
Writer:
Finnerty Steeves
Starring: Finnerty Steeves, Jeremy Davidson, John Pankow, Kristine Sutherland, Richard Masur, Michael Emerson, Marin Hinkle, Miriam Shor, Kate Burton, Austin Pendleton, and Deborah Rush
Movie length: 1 hour 22 minutes

I’m a popcorn movie kind of guy, so the prospect of a movie about a middle-aged New York City theater actress having to deal with the end of her 15 year marriage didn’t immediately scream ‘must watch.’ Spoiler alert: I was pleasantly surprised by this movie.

In keeping with the title, before/during/after uses an interesting time structure. Rather than being told chronologically, scenes are intercut from various times in the relationship between Jennie (Finnerty Steeves) and David (Jeremy Davidson, who I remembered from short lived TV show Pan Am, but has also popped up on many shows you’ve probably seen). The script, written by Steeves, is the reason I liked this movie so much. Sometimes telling a story out of order can come off as gimmicky. Don’t hate me, but I think Christopher Nolan overdoes it sometimes. In this case, the structure really pushes the narrative forward by clustering the scenes thematically. Perhaps because of the time shifting, the first few scenes were a bit confusing. However, it starts to make sense a few minutes in and everything ties together at the end.

Another strong point about the script is that it feels genuine and relatable, which is surprising since it is about an actress in New York whose husband is some sort of boat transporter. I found myself gritting my teeth for much of this movie, because what Jennie was going through felt so realistic and uncomfortable. There were some less realistic parts which bordered on parody. The various therapists were a bit over the top and there was a scene with a paperwork specialist that was so ridiculously funny that it seemed out of place, but I laughed out loud, so I’ll give it a pass. Small chuckles aside, this is a sad film that avoids many of the overused tropes you’d expect from this type of story. You really feel for Jennie as her relationship slowly disintegrates. 

before/during/after is not the type of movie I gravitate to, but I’m glad I saw it. Steeves has written an excellent script, and in doing so, has crafted a role that she plays perfectly. The ‘feel good movie of the year’ this isn’t, but it is an entertaining and thoughtful look at the death of a perfect marriage.

Score 8/10

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