A director who still thinks like a producer, Barbet Schroeder has a way of making decent, intelligent, rather boring films (Reversal of Fortune
, Kiss of Death
), but this is simply more mediocre than most: a fraught family drama which never really hits home. When a local teenager turns up dead, Ben and Carolyn Ryan (Neeson and Streep) have no inkling that their lives will be affected. Even when son Jacob (Furlong) runs off, Carolyn can't believe he's done anything wrong; but a police inquiry soon persuades Ben otherwise, and he angrily destroys incriminating evidence, a course of adamant non-cooperation which horrifies his wife and daughter. Plenty of dramatic meat here, but the talky screenplay by Ted (Silence of the Lambs
) Tally, from the book by Rosellen Brown, soon forgoes any semblance of suspense in favour of supposedly subtle character study and a thorny ethical conundrum: what price truth when your own flesh and blood faces life behind bars? While the script pays brief lip service to class questions, the movie runs away from guilt as surely as young Jacob. Streep has virtually nothing to play with, while Neeson's bullish chauvinism is indulged right up to a phoney prison-scene showdown. It's not a stupid film, exactly, but badly made, stagnant, humourless, and sorely lacking in authentic human behaviour.