Publicists don’t really need critics to help them sell high-minded productions like The Constant Gardener and Crash when the pedigree of these films does all the work for them. Now & Forever, on the other hand, needs all the help it can get, but what does it say that people couldn’t wait to pile into the first of countless press screenings for Constant Gardener in New York City, while the publicist for Now & Forever couldn’t get more than half a dozen people to show up to the one screening he was having for Bob Clark’s film? It’s called elitism, and the status quo that assigns Fernando Meirelles to the rank of a great director and Clark to “the guy who directed Porky’s” is affirmed and reaffirmed on a daily basis by hacks like Rex Reed who are not only shortsighted and superficial students of film culture but scarcely interested in seeing a film unless they’re getting paid for reviewing it or if it stars their favorite It-lister.
Now & Forever is not a great film but it channels the sensations of the provocative thrillers Clark made during the 1970s. Shot on what could be leftover film stock from Deathdream, there’s a grimy integrity to the look and feel of the film that mitigates the cheesiness of the story, something of a protracted meet-cute between a white girl and Native American boy living in Saskatchewan, Canada. The opening scene inside a hotel room is a stunner: Slippery and duplicitous, the movie unexpectedly shifts into the past and then forward once again, with Clark locating in the ominous encounters between a young Angela and the men in her life the many layers of subtext that color the panic that haunts her as an adult. (The sinister score by Paul Zaza, responsible for great soundtracks for many bad horror movies like Prom Night and My Bloody Valentine, is a retro-y synth concoction that perfectly jives with Clark’s interesting disruptions of time and, in the end, space.)
Like a ghost, the film is impossible to pin down, defying genre categorization even as it evolves into something of a corny, DIY production of The Sixth Sense. For every genuine display of affection (“I’m not like my mother, she broke my father’s heart,” says a young Angela to a young John), there are moments that lay it on thick, especially in regard to the spirit world John and his father worship and look to one day inhabit. But unlike Constant Gardener, a liberal-pandering spy thriller Reed praises for being a “summer surprise of unusual value,” Now & Forever is the real surprise for showing genuine compassion and understanding of faith and culture clash.