|Category||Drama||Theatrical Trailer(s)||Yes, 1 - 1.78:1, 16x9 enh, Dolby Digital 2.0|
|Year Released||1998||Commentary Tracks||None|
|Running Time||122:08 minutes||Other Extras||Biographies - Cast and Crew
Featurette - Spotlight On Location (9:54)
Tom Everett Scott
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||MPEG||None|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Dolby Digital||5.0|
|16x9 Enhancement||Yes||Soundtrack Languages
|English (Dolby Digital 5.0, 384 Kb/s)|
|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||
|English||Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or
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.
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.
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.
The video quality is good.
The audio quality is good.
The extras are reasonable.
© Ian Morris
17th November 1999
|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|