New Line Home Entertainment
Date: April 19, 2005
Review posted: April 20, 2005
Just when a
young couple joyously announce their engagement after a long
courtship, an unknown boy enters their lives uninvited, and
represents himself as the reincarnation of the bride-to-be’s first
husband who died ten years prior. The couple and their families
struggle with the possibilities of the reappearance of a
loved-one’s soul, and the ramifications’ effects on each of them
threaten to blow their close-knit unit apart.
This film poses
many existential questions, and it seems to hedge on the majority of
them. Though not necessarily a bad thing, the dilemmas presented seem
to run out of steam long before you care. The movie fades in with the
vocalized thoughts of Sean, husband of Alice (Nicole Kidman), on his
ridicule of the whole reincarnation issue. He continues talking over
an image of him jogging in a snow-covered park, and then he collapses,
presumably of a heart attack. Cut to ten years later. After a coming
out party where Joseph (Danny Huston), Alice’s new beau, toasts to
their impending nuptials, the immediate family including Alice’s
mother (Lauren Bacall) retreats to the couple’s tony apartment.
Suddenly a young boy (Cameron Bright) nonchalantly interrupts their
intimate gathering, and takes Alice aside to announce that he is Sean,
and that she should not marry Joseph. From this point on meanders a
brooding, drawn-out story of non-suspenseful mystery. Could he be?
Should she? Could she? Do we (care)?
Nicole Kidman has
clearly established herself as an acting force in drama (The Hours,
Eyes Wide Shut), comedy (To Die For), and musical (Moulin
Rouge), and she gives another finely-nuanced turn here as a mate
in two completely separate relationships, grappling with the
possibility of reincarnation and struggling with her incredulity and
emotionality. Her short hair and the film’s claustrophobic atmosphere
beg comparison to Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby, a clearly
different and better film. A scene in which Alice is witnessing a live
performance and the camera focuses on her face full-frame for what
seems an impossible amount of time is a stunning example of her
immense capacity for displaying a range of thought and emotion with
barely a bodily twitch.
(director John Huston’s son) does fine in a measured performance as
Alice’s fiancé facing a growing intrusive threat, and Lauren Bacall
ads an authoritative yet loving presence. One of my many problems with
this film is Cameron Bright’s casting as young Sean. It’s a one-note
performance with a creepy demeanor that never changes, requiring no
emotional involvement from the audience.
One of the script’s
problems is that the tone of Alice’s prior marriage is never
established, so her reaction is always called into question. Signs of
a happy marriage, love lost, or forlorn mourning are nowhere to be
found, so her actions are not entirely believable or sympathetic. The
film’s original tagline, “Be careful what you wish for,” implies an
active longing that is never even hinted. Though a few plot
explanations are suggested along the way, none of them are entirely
plausible. The culturally unconscionable act of underage illicit
behavior, seemingly restricted in the news these days to the
teacher/student relationship, is delicately handled though, and ought
not cause any offense.
co-writer Jonathan Glazer’s previous film, Sexy Beast, was an
intriguing and finely paced debut. Birth, his follow-up, avoids
the usual supernatural clichés and leaves much for the audience to
ponder but, in the process, cultivates little interest in the thin
plot’s eventual nebulous outcome.
been transferred to DVD in its theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The
color palette of this film is purposefully drab and muted and the
transfer appears to retain the film’s mood. I did however notice
sporadic granular artifacts, most evident in darkly lit close-ups.
The Dolby Digital
5.1 and Dolby Surround tracks should be barely indistinguishable from
each other, since no rear activity was audible. The .1 Sub track
however, received a decent workout from Alexandre Desplat’s score
that, while providing thrilling guidance at times and is seemingly
misplaced at others, is always haunting. English and Spanish subtitles
are also available.
What extras? This
DVD is devoid – I missed the director’s explanation of his vision, why
certain plot elements were included, and what may have been left out.
The theatrical trailer is available, as are other New Line
previews, but I’ll never know what the DVD-ROM component has to
offer, since Macintosh users are again left out in the cold.
I wouldn’t rush out
to purchase this DVD. I was anxious to see it in the theater but let
it get by, and watching it at home was a disappointment. The disk’s
lack of extras is also aggravating. It might be a worthwhile rental
for fans of Nicole Kidman, but otherwise there are way to many
worthwhile films to spend your money and time on.
VERDICT: SKIP IT
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