Saving Grace (1999)

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Released 10-Sep-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Audio Commentary-Craig Ferguson & Mark Crowdy with Nigel Cole (Director)
Audio Commentary-Brenda Blethyn & Craig Ferguson with Nigel Cole (Director)
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 90:30
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Nigel Cole
Studio
Distributor

Magna Home Entertainment
Starring Brenda Blethyn
Craig Ferguson
Martin Clunes
Tcheky Karyo
Case Click
RPI $29.95 Music Mark Russel


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, of more than just tobacco
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Saving Grace is 100% pure, unadulterated British comedy. The director, actors, story and location all come together to produce a very entertaining 90 minutes. The film is set against the backdrop of the wonderful Cornish coast. There are some great shots of the coastline, and the little village portrayed is perfect as the location for Saving Grace. Part of the appeal of the film is that the lifestyle portrayed in this small village, where everyone knows everyone else and all are friends, and even the local police officer is liked by all, is attractive to those in the big cities.

    The comedy style of Saving Grace has been heavily influenced by the great history of British comedy. There were moments that took me back to films and series that I have greatly enjoyed, such as Doctor in the House, the Carry On films, Yes Minister, and many others. This is not to say that they copy moments from these films - they don't - but the style is similar. There is also a touch of Cheech and Chong in some scenes, although the directors mention never having seen the Cheech and Chong movies in the commentaries.

    The actors bring the excellent script to life with superb performances. The acting is great and the comedic timing cannot be faulted. You cannot help but to be drawn into this film and find yourself caught up with the characters. They each have their own individual character and even the minor players have good depth. It was a real treat to see Leslie Phillips in this film. To me, he personifies a genre of comedy that is a particular favourite of mine.

    For those that might require it, here is a warning: the plot depicts the use and cultivation of marijuana. It appears throughout the film and there are many scenes where people come under its influence...heavily under its influence.

    Saving Grace is the story of a middle-aged housewife whose husband has jumped out of a plane, unfortunately without the requisite parachute. The hole he ends up in is not nearly as deep as the one Grace (Brenda Blethyn) now finds herself in. Her husband has left behind a mountain of debt and no source of income and the collection agencies are starting to close in. Grace, who is an excellent gardener is asked by her handyman (Craig Ferguson) to help save a very sick plant. The plant turns out to be of the illegal smoking variety. While nursing the plant back to health, Grace gets an idea of how to solve all her debt problems in one fell swoop. She turns her greenhouse into a production line for marijuana. We now have the setting for the wonderful British humour that follows as a middle-aged housewife and a local handyman try to become big-time drug dealers. We see the problems they encounter and their interaction with the rest of the village.

    To say more would be to ruin some of the twists. I thoroughly enjoyed this film and will be watching it again.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This is a single layered disc, and the video suffers slightly from the level of compression required to fit 90 minutes of film and three soundtracks into this amount of space.   

    We are presented with a transfer in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. This is not the original aspect ratio of this movie, which is 2.35:1. I have no idea why they would change the aspect ratio for our Region, particularly as Region 1 has been blessed with a dual format disc including 2.35:1 and 1.33:1 aspect ratios. While watching the film, I did not see any overt framing problems caused by this change in aspect ratio. I think we have simply missed out on some of the sweeping grandeur of the location. You can clearly see the original framing in the second half of the trailer. This is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and shows the original width of the film along with extra height, clearly including many shots with a boom mike at the top of frame. From this, it looks like they have chosen to crop the sides of the image to change the ratio. Thankfully, the transfer is at least 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is reasonably sharp throughout, particularly in the foreground of shots. The shadow detail is where this transfer really falls down - there is basically none. Throughout the transfer, especially in the night shots, the shadows are totally opaque. There was no low level noise apparent.

    Colours are very good. The overall level and tint of the film changes a couple of times. This is intentional, and the director's commentary spells out his intentions in this regard. There was no chroma noise evident.

    There are some MPEG artefacts in scenes that pan across large areas of detail such as forests. In these shots, some loss in resolution is evident. Examples are in the background at 8:31 and in the trees and the front of the house at 4:16. There is a small amount of aliasing visible, an example of which also has some macro-blocking, in the palm tree on the left of the house entrance at 8:31. There were only a few film artefacts consisting of a few black and white specs.

    There are no subtitles on this disc.



Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The main movie audio is excellent while the commentary tracks are reasonable. There is a small glitch in the second commentary where the voices collapse into the left speaker for a second at 44:21.

    There are three audio tracks; the main English Dolby Digital 5.1 movie soundtrack and two English Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks carrying the two commentaries. I listened to all three.

    The dialogue quality of the movie track is excellent. All of the vocal nuances of British comedy came though perfectly clearly. There were no audio sync problems.

    The music consisted mainly of a series of pop or light rock songs from such groups as Koot, Plenty, The Pretenders, Aft and others. This blended well with the feel of the film and in places added to the comedy. There were only a couple of sound effects, such as the accompaniment to a rather large use of electricity at one point.

    The surrounds were not really used other than to expand the music sound stage a little.

    The subwoofer laid a foundation for the music but did little else.



Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras consist of cast & crew biographies, a theatrical trailer and two audio commentaries.

Menu

    The main menu is backed by a static picture with a song from the film playing in stereo. The sub menus are based around a circular motif which can catch you out on navigation until you get used to it.

Theatrical Trailer

    This is presented in 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced with a 2.0 soundtrack. It is an interesting trailer, but not one that I believe conveys the correct feel for the film.

Commentary - Craig Ferguson & Mark Crowdy with Nigel Cole

    Nigel Cole is the director and Craig Ferguson and Mark Crowdy the co-writers. This was the more interesting of the two commentaries, giving an insight into what the director and writers were thinking during parts of the film. They also point out details within the film that you may have missed on first viewing as well as the details of some of the characters, particularly where they are from the real village where the filming was done. Not riveting stuff, but enjoyable in parts. They seemed to have aimed both commentaries at overseas viewers as often the first comment about someone is that they are famous in Britain.

Commentary - Brenda Blethyn & Craig Ferguson with Nigel Cole

    There are several times where this commentary covers the exact same ground as the first commentary. From here it goes downhill. They run out of things to talk about related to the film and start to wander off. At one stage, we hear all about a wildlife documentary that the director was involved with concerning orang-utan. To cap it off, we are treated to a mobile phone interruption recorded for posterity. Like the first commentary, there are some good points but these get lost amongst the trivia.

    Another problem was the constant attempts to apologise for making a film about drugs. They vacillate back and forth between saying drugs are a bad thing and solve no-one's problems and justifying the film because everyone smokes marijuana anyway.

Biographies - Cast & Crew

    The usual information in a series of static pages.

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 disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    It would appear that the Region 1 version is the clear winner, especially as they get the original and correct aspect ratio.

Summary

    Saving Grace is a great film which cannot fail to entertain. The reactions of the various villagers as they come into contact with the produce of Grace's  hothouse are hilarious.

    The video quality is good.

    The audio is excellent.

    The extras do give an insight into the minds of the director, writers and actors.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Tuesday, September 04, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic A-350A, using S-Video output
DisplaySony 1252Q CRT Projector, 254cm custom built 1.0 gain screen. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationSony STR GA-8ES
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

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