Love and Death on Long Island (1997)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 21-Jun-2006

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Satire Main Menu Audio-One still plus music from score
Theatrical Trailer-Ratio 1.85:1, no enhancement
Trailer-Look Both Ways, Gerry, Emile, Night On Earth, Three Dollars
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 93:42
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Richard Kwietniowski

Madman Entertainment
Starring John Hurt
Jason Priestley
Fiona Loewi
Sheila Hancock
Harvey Atkin
Gawn Grainger
Elizabeth Quinn
Maury Chaykin
Linda Busby
Bill Leadbitter
Anne Reid
Danny Webb
Andrew Barrow
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music Richard Grassby-Lewis
The Insects

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, Protagonist does not conform to society at large.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Beach scene with Jason Priestley walking his dog.

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

"The discovery of beauty where no-one thought of looking for it."

    Love and Death on Long Island is a gentle satiric comedy which is a totally unexpected pleasure and a treasure - filled with surprising gifts that linger in the memory and resound in your everyday life. This is a movie to sit back and relish on first viewing, and a movie which grows in meaning as you think back upon the experience.
    Giles De'Ath (John Hurt) is a successful, rather stuffy English author who is a widower of twenty years living almost completely untouched by the modern world. He doesn't own a TV set or a computer - "I'm a writer! I do not process words". Taunted by an interviewer's incredulity he goes to the "cinema" to see the latest incarnation of an E.M.Forster work, Eternal Moment, but accidentally finds himself in front of the wrong multiplex screen and instead of seeing the Forster movie he is exposed to the latest teen flick, Hot Pants College 2. Just as Giles is about to leave in stunned disbelief at the teenage vulgarity on the screen he is stopped in his tracks by a vision of beauty. On the cinema screen is the face of  teen heartthrob Ronnie Bostock (Jason Priestley). From this moment Giles' life is totally changed. He becomes obsessed with the beautiful, youthful image of Ronnie, making scrapbooks and studying the minutiae of the teen idol's life. Ultimately Giles travels to the United States and manipulates his way into Ronnie's life.
    Based on the acclaimed short novel by Gilbert Adair, this is not a plot driven film, but a character driven one. Not only the main character, but every role is vividly written and acted, no matter how small their part may be in the whole. Back in England there is Giles' housekeeper, Mrs Barker, quietly and brilliantly played by Sheila Hancock, and his agent and friend, Henry, an excellent Gawn Grainger. In the United States there is the motel proprietor Mrs Read (Elizabeth Quinn), who quietly lends the author a typewriter, and  the owner of the sleazy diner Giles frequents ,Chez d'Irv, a superb Maury Chaykin. Even smaller roles, TV salesman, video rental clerk or postman, all are perfectly cast and played.
     As Audrey, the fashion model girlfriend of Ronnie whom Giles uses to meet the object of his obsession, Fiona Loewi is perfect. Without confrontation - this is not a work of confrontation - we see every nuance as Audrey slowly comes to realise that Giles is her rival. She conveys this knowledge to Giles while watching Ronnie play baseball, and it is one of the quietly great moments of the film.
    Then there is the object of Giles' obsession, infatuation and love, Ronnie. Jason Priestley is an absolute revelation. Physically every inch the teen idol, his underplaying of Ronnie's inherent decency and lack of intelligence is hysterically funny, touching and truthful. There are no cheap tricks in Priestley's performance and in the beautifully handled climactic scene between the two men we see performances that are totally riveting. I was not looking or watching, I was staring at the screen. It is rare that a film can reach such a moment and that the audience - me at least - has not the slightest idea what is going to happen next.
    That leaves John Hurt. There is little one can say about perfection. He is a fascinating narrator/companion as he leads us with him on his journey, intelligent, witty, ironic, sensitive, devious and ruthless in the pursuit of his love. This is a great film actor.
     In his feature directorial debut director/writer Richard Kwietniowski artfully handles his material and the actors delivering a subtle, humorous and emotionally truthful experience. This is not a film with great dramatic highs but rather a comedy in the true classical sense, a sharp satirical observation of humanity and its foibles. Time magazine described this film as "British comedy at its best".
    What you get from Love and Death on Long Island depends on what you bring to it. Is it simply a satiric comedy of the clash of cultures, "high" and "low", or is it a development of Henry James theme of the clash between the sophisticated European and the naive innocence of the New World, an innocence which is often corrupted by the experience? Is it a present day homosexual Lolita - although Ronnie is a more mature object of passion - or is it a variation on Oscar Wilde's infatuation with "youth"? Whatever, this is a film I will long remember while other "blockbusters" will have blurred into oblivion.
    Since Love and Death on Long Island Richard Kwitnowski has directed and written the much praised Making Mahowney, which to my shame I have not seen. I will be chasing that title, and eagerly anticipating his current project No One Gets Off in This Town, which stars Gillian Anderson, Brenda Blethyn and, again, the miraculous John Hurt.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The video quality of this disc is disappointing.

    The feature is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The colours are rich and dynamic, the Nova Scotia locations looking beautiful.
    Unfortunately the image is not sharp. I kept cleaning my glasses until I realised it was the film itself. It is not "bad" but neither is it "good". The fine titles at the end of the film are almost impossible to read.
    The other major visual problem is the amount of low level noise, the worst I have seen for quite some time. Obvious examples are at 31:30, 34:50 and 53:50.
    Aliasing was also noted at various times, one instance being on weatherboards at 42:35.
    The photography by Oliver Curtis is masterful so it is doubly regrettable that the image presented is disappointing.
    These flaws do not prevent the film being a most involving experience, but it would be wonderful to see a transfer that did true justice to the source material.
    Watching a second time on a smaller screen, the image was much more satisfying.
    There are no subtitles for the movie.
    This is a single layer disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio on this disc is a pleasant surprise.
    There is only one audio track, English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded sound.
    The front speaker separation is excellent, with a great deal of directionality in the sound, and the rear surround effects are almost constant. From the rolling surf and seagulls in the opening, to traffic, supermarket activity, thunder and even low ambient mumblings in the "gentlemen's'" club, the surround information creates a totally immersive and satisfying aural experience.
    This is not a film for subwoofer dynamics, though the music does benefit.
    Much of the film has been recorded "live" and consequently there is a low rumble in some scenes. This is not distracting, but is present. To me the "liveliness" of the sound is by far preferable to dialogue presented in a sterile vacuum.
    Dialogue - and this is a dialogue film - was perfectly understandable, and there were no sync problems.
    The score by Richard Grassby-Lewis was never obtrusive, but supported beautifully what was on the screen. Enhanced by the subwoofer the opening heart-beat throbs of the opening prepare us for an intimate emotional ride, and the style of the music moves cleverly from the old world to the new. Some more modern sounds are provided by The Insects.


Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Unfortunately there are no extras which relate directly to the film itself. This is a shame when the film is so inherently interesting and the involved viewer wants to learn more about the creative forces behind such an impressive work.


    The menu design is extremely basic with one still from the movie and music from the score in the background.
    The menu options are:
                                      Play Feature
                                      Selected Scenes : 14 thumbnailed scenes over one still from the movie, without audio
                                      Extras : Options are : Theatrical Trailer
                                                                        Madman Propaganda

Theatrical Trailer : (02:32)
    The trailer is presented in the ratio of 1.85:1 but is not 16x9 enhanced. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 @ 192 kbps.

Madman Propaganda
    This is simply a collection of trailers of other Madman movies.
        Look Both Ways : (00:38) Aspect ratio 1.85:1 and 16x9 enhanced with Dolby Digital 2.0.
        Gerry : (02:45) Aspect ratio 2.35:1 and 16x9 enhanced with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.
        Emile : (02:25) Aspect ratio 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.
        Night on Earth : (02:29) Aspect ratio 1.85:1, no enhancement, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. There are English subtitles.
        Three Dollars : (02:25) Aspect ratio 1.85:1 and 16x9 enhanced with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.


R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this titles misses out on English and Spanish subtitles.

    The Region 1 version misses out on : Theatrical Trailer
                                                             Madman Propaganda.

    Purely on ease of access I would say region 4 wins - but I would like to physically compare the visual quality of the two releases.


    A brilliant film that was overlooked at the time of its release - possible overshadowed by the somewhat similarly themed Gods and Monsters. Superbly written and directed, with dazzling performances from the two male leads.
    A pity the video wasn't better. Maybe watch it on a smaller screen.
    The audio is very good.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo-SP500, using Component output
DisplayPhilips Plasma 42FD9954/69c. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE