One True Thing

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Details At A Glance

Category Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - 1.78:1, 16x9 enh, Dolby Digital 2.0
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1998 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 122:08 minutes Other Extras Biographies - Cast and Crew
Featurette - Spotlight On Location (9:54) 
Production Notes
Web Links
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (65:48)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2,4 Director Carl Franklin

Columbia TriStar
Starring Meryl Streep
Renee Zellweger 
William Hurt 
Tom Everett Scott 
Nicky Katt
Lauren Graham
Case Transparent Amaray
RRP $34.95 Music Cliff Eidelman

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 5.0
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages
Region 4
English (Dolby Digital 5.0, 384 Kb/s)
Soundtrack Languages
Region 2
English (Dolby Digital 5.0, 384 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s) 
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s) 
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s) 
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Region 4
English Annoying Product Placement No
Region 2
Action In or
After Credits

Plot Synopsis

    I suppose the quality of One True Thing can in part be judged by the fact that it comes from the book by Anna Quindlen. Add to that the lead role in the hands of Meryl Streep, arguably the best actress of the current era, and this is obviously a film that commands some respect. So naturally it bored me no end. Now do not get me wrong - this is a fine film, superbly acted and well directed, it is simply that it is not the sort of thing that I would ordinarily throw into the player for an evening's entertainment. But I am guessing that I may well be in the minority here.

    This is a nicely dense story with a number of levels to it. At one level, it is the story of the Gulden family coming to grips with mother Kate (Meryl Streep) being diagnosed with cancer, and her gradual decline to a painful and undignified death. At another level, it is the story of daughter Ellen (Renee Zellweger), a career-oriented journalist, determined to succeed at all costs, having to re-evaluate her life and coming to terms with her mother and father, George (William Hurt), and their relationship in the light of the debilitating cancer, which she finds out about during a weekend visit home for her father's birthday. It also the story of her relationship with her father in the unexpected light of the bad news and her (mis)understanding of her father's reactions, particularly in light of his almost ultimatum that she should give up her job to return home to look after her mother whilst he continues to work. At another level, it is the story of a man who simply cannot grasp the changes needed to help the light of his life towards a painful and at times undignified death.

    It is also the very potent story of how difficult it is for people to adjust to the slow, painful death of a cancer victim, of how very difficult it is to literally nurse someone to death. And whilst there is nothing overt to it, it is also a poignant argument of the stresses caused by the eventual need to assess one's attitude to assisted euthanasia for the terminally ill, dying a slow, painful, undignified death.

    This is an extremely powerful story, superbly brought to the screen by two very fine actors in Meryl Streep and William Hurt. And surprisingly for me, Renee Zellweger is not humbled by those around her and does an equally superb job. Well directed by Carl Franklin, and for those of a more sensitive nature, this will keep the Kleenex factory in business for a while longer. Very touching, very moving and so completely not my cup of tea, but I am very glad to have seen the film.

Transfer Quality


    Well, this effort just about restores your confidence in Warner Advanced Media Operations, who were responsible for the compression of this disc too. Whilst it is not on a level with Shakespeare in Love, this is a demonstrably better transfer than Born On The Fourth of July of the same release batch, even allowing for the difference in age of the films.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    In keeping with the style created by Carl Franklin I believe, this is a slightly soft transfer, lacking absolute sharpness throughout. Nonetheless, it is an effective transfer although it is not as clear as perhaps it could have been. Shadow detail was good, without being spectacular, although the transfer is a little dark to begin with. There appeared to be some quite minor low level noise in the picture at times, although nothing that would ordinarily be a distraction unless you were looking for it.

    The colours were very naturally rendered throughout the film, although not especially vibrant except during some nice fall (oops, autumn) scenes with some nice golden/red colours to the trees. However, given the setting of New England and predominantly in winter, it is a very convincing colourscape indeed. The overall tone is a little rich, which again is quite evocative of New England in winter.

    There did not appear to be any MPEG artefacts in the transfer. The only film-to-video artefact noted was some very minor aliasing along picture frames, books and the like. Nothing overly noticeable and definitely not detracting from the film. Film artefacts were virtually non-existent, with only some quite minor intrusions noted.

    Subtitles can be selected via the remote control, and all subtitles are available via the remote, no matter what Region the DVD player is set to. The subtitle menu, however, is dependent on which Region the DVD player is set to.

    This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change coming at 65:28. This is a very well placed layer change, coming during a scene fade and is completely non-disruptive to the film. Very nicely done by Universal.


    Okay, the film is not going to give you a lot in the soundtrack department, and the choice of only a 5.0 soundtrack is a good one as it suits the style of the film so well.

    The audio tracks available on this DVD are dependent on the Region that the DVD player is set to in the same way as for subtitles. They are selectable via the audio menu, and via the remote control. All audio tracks are selectable via the remote control at all times.

    There are five audio tracks on the DVD: English Dolby Digital 5.0, German Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded, Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded, French Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded. I listened to the default English Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack.

    Dialogue was clear and very easy to understand.

    There did not appear to be any audio sync problems with this disc.

    The score by Cliff Eidelman is not especially remarkable. It is mainly piano and strings in a suitably minor key, quite generically evoking all the right impressions of pain, death and conflict in general. It fits the on-screen action well, and makes an overall contribution to the film.

    The surround channels were only used sparingly, mainly for the musical contribution and some ambience support. Otherwise this is a very frontally balanced soundscape, befitting the dialogue basis of the film. It is quite a natural soundscape, quite believable, and you do at times feel as if you are in the room with the family.

    Obviously there is no use of the bass channel in the 5.0 soundtrack.


    There is a reasonably decent selection of extras on this disc.


    The menu design is themed around the movie, although not enhanced in any way.

Featurette - Spotlight on Location

    Your fairly typical extended promotional type featurette, where basically everyone says good things about everyone else and about the film for ten minutes. Personally, I am finding these things a little too benign and really wish that the people would really lash out and become emotional about what they have done! It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Theatrical Trailer

    This is a little grainy even though it is 16x9 enhanced; my initial reaction was that it was not so enhanced.

Production Notes

Biographies - Cast and Crew

Web Links

    Sorry, since I do not have a DVD-ROM drive, cannot tell you much about these.

R4 vs R1

    There does not appear to be any difference between the Region 1 and Region 4 releases from the resources I have checked, although my primary source of information was down when this was being written. If this is correct, then there is no reason to prefer one version over the other, apart from the inherent superiority of the PAL system of Region 4.


    One True Thing is a fine film on a good DVD, even if it is not the usual sort of thing that I turn to for entertainment.

    The video quality is good.

    The audio quality is good.

    The extras are reasonable.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris
17th November 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL