Universal/1999/109/ANA 2.35

    I felt like a fish bobbing up at bait I didn't recognize, but I sure got hooked. Michael Winterbottom's wandering camera takes a raw look at the intertwining lives of three sisters in London. What is mesmerizing about this film is the drive for survival. The three girls have a wonderful spirit, quite surprising considering the sour state of their lives at this particular moment. Coupled with the beaten shock of a father and the mother who sucks the last ounce of life from him, the three girls rise above the odds.

Hand held and natural. ŠUniversal

     The action takes place during one week in the lives of these people. The events are rather ordinary, but they take on enormous proportions within the context of the film's flow. The hand held camera work blends intimately and seamlessly with the characters. Winterbottom is truly a conductor sitting in front of the editing bay, waving his hands with certain decision in creating a musical rhythm for this moody film. Winterbottom even manages to make some camera effects especially resonant.
     The outstanding ensemble cast is led by the shy charm of Gina McKee. McKee's Nadia exhibits a modest hunger for happiness. There's no greed pushing at the base of this woman. She wants her modest share of happiness. McKee makes you want her to find her love. Shirley Henderson and Molly Parker are equally appealing in their very honest performances as Nadia's sisters Molly and Debbie. Kika Markham plays the mother of the girls with pathetic authenticity and Jack Shepherd is perfectly beaten as dad. Ian Hart creates another unique character as Debbie's ex husband. 
     Get used to it, the grain that is, if you want to enjoy this film on DVD. Winterbottom lets the grain all hang out in an attempt to add even more grittiness to this tale than it already has. The shooting style does give a natural immediacy to the material. The DVD transfer is true to the film material. Grain is prevalent, but controlled and consistent. Color is slightly muted, again, perhaps washed by the grain. The film was shot Super 16 for flexibility of all the hand held shots. Lighting is also almost completely natural. The images are sharp through the grain, the shadow detail just fine. The Dolby Digital 5:1 surround mix catches the beat of the city and the action of the clubs. Michael Nyman's excellent score emphasizes the pathos in the air and is cleanly rendered on the DVD. 



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Robert A. Harris

Robert Harris:Tilting at Hollywood
Tilting at Hollywood

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