Alan Rudolph has often been considered a second rate Robert Altman and whether or not you agree with that completely you have to agree his films have a free flow to them that is akin to Altman. Such is the case with Afterglow; except it really is a second rate film.
Julie Christie plays Phyllis a lonely woman married to a man name Lucky (Nick Nolte) who plays a womanizing handyman. She is an ex-movie star who spends her time watching old midnight movies that she once starred in and he goes around 'fixing' people's problems. Their relationship has been torn apart since years before when their daughter ran away from home.
The parallel story is about a young couple who have reached a bump in the road of their early marriage. Marianne (Lara Flynn Boyle) is a spacey, overwrought woman who is ignored by her somewhat epicene and callous husband Jeffrey (Jonny Lee Miller); she wants children but he doesn't even want to sleep with her.
The plot marches along somewhat predictably as the two separate stories come together and the four characters crisscross each other's lives. What is most evident is that both couples have similar troubles except that they are at opposite ends of the age spectrum. And, more to the point, the young couple is destined to repeat the mistakes of the older couple.
The problem with the movie isn't the plot though; it is Alan Rudolph's annoying style. The movie has a very deliberately paced theatrical feel and the dialogue comes across corny quite often. The movie has plenty of portentous metaphors too: Lucky is called by Marianne to build a door in her house, both Lucky and Phyllis see their runaway daughter on a bridge, etc. And, of course the coincidences in the meeting of the couples are just too much.
That said director / writer Alan Rudolph has always had a cult following and those who have enjoyed some of his better movies; such as Choose Me, The Moderns or Equinox will want to see this. For the rest of you out there I would recommend restraint unless you're really curious.
How does it look?
The look of the film is very soft. The cinematography by Toyomichi Kurita is quite good and utilizes the 1.85:1 framing very well. The best thing in the film is the use of camera movement, zoom lens work and editing.
How does it sound?
The film has a good mix of dialogue and an ambitious score by Mark Isham with a lot of heavy base sound. The DVD is in Dolby Digital 5.1 and sounds good across all spectrums.
What extras are there.?
Not much. There are three trailers.
Filmmaker Alan Rudolph is a romantic who has a particular view of the world and a unique style to boot. Afterglow is a fable/ drama that explores the nature of doubt and forgiveness in relationships. The film succeeds in the acting and technical department but falls short in terms of storytelling and script. The DVD looks and sounds good but there are no real extras. Rent it.