“After the Past” is a small, forgettable feature about two estranged brothers who find a new bond following the death of their abusive father. The film is not terrible, by any stretch, but it is so mundane that it’s difficult to understand why it ever got made.
The film opens with a black-and-white video flashback that takes place in Malibu, California, in 1978. The scene is a little confusing, given it is occupied by two boys whose clothing and hairstyles are very contemporary and bear no resemblance to what kids dressed like back then. Adding to the mayhem is an off-screen narration by Amy Madigan, who informs the viewer she is the dead mother of these kids. She eventually disappears as abruptly as she arrived and the kids are magically transformed into today’s adult equivalent. There’s Russ, a Hollywood writer with a John Cusack-style hangdog expression, and Jimmy, a New York hood whose tough guy behavior seems to suggest an attempt to imitate all of the “Goodfellas” cast members at once. Jimmy heads to Malibu to reunite with his brother for the funeral, although he gets delayed for a session of sex and drugs with some Hollywood hotties. In the movie’s single funny scene, Jimmy passes out while being serviced in a hotel by two beauties, who sneer at his inert body on the hotel bed and then begin making love to each other. Pity the film didn’t follow their further adventures!
Although separated by a decade’s absence and very different lifestyles, the brothers seem to have a lot in common: both talk endlessly about women (or the lack thereof), both have long-standing grievances with their dead parents that need addressing, and both have a curious habit of going through too much of the film with their shirts off, displaying lean and muscular torsos decorated with an assortment of silly tattoos. In a way, “After the Past” is a valuable lesson for anyone considering a tattoo: don’t make the mistake that the cast did with their bodies.
The chatter about the despair and frustration of the brothers’ childhood becomes so grueling at times that you’d wish they would follow the advice given by Cher in “Moonstruck” and snap out of it. Cher doesn’t show up, sadly, but the film does have the surprise presence of Stephen Baldwin in an unbilled supporting role as a California crime boss named Flash. Baldwin, who seems to have put on a few extra pounds since his last big screen appearances, has a problem keeping a straight face and his scene has the impression of a blooper reel rather than any semblance of real life. There is also a guest appearance by an unidentified sea lion, who keeps turning up when the film’s location switches to the Pacific coast. The sea lion, by the way, is considerably thinner than Stephen Baldwin.
“After the Past” is not a feel-good film, nor is it a feel-bad film. It is a feel-numb film, but the numbness wears off with the end credits.