March 11, 1996 12:00 PM

Meryl Streep, Liam Neeson

As every baker knows, even when you use all the right ingredients, sometimes the bread doesn’t rise. Such it is with Before and After, a drama based on Rosellen Brown’s absorbing 1992 novel of the same name and starring a talented cast.

The story has Streep and Neeson as parents whose son (Edward Furlong) is suspected of murdering his girlfriend. Streep loves her son, but she is all for handing over possible evidence to the police and telling the truth, while Neeson wants to protect the boy at all costs. Eventually the question of innocence and guilt becomes lost in family squabbles.

Streep is fine, but her character is way too saintly. (And what’s with the near-Kabuki white makeup?) Neeson registers as lumbering and anguished, which is more than can be said for Furlong, who spends much of the movie sullen and withdrawn, barely registering at all. (PG-13)

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