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Image Entertainment presents
Careful, He Might Hear You (1983)

Vanessa: This is a grave. Your mother's buried here. Where did you think she was?"
P.S.: Agnes says she's on a plane.
Vanessa: A plane?
P.S: Yes, the sethenth plane.
Vanessa: Haven't they told you not to listen to dear old Agnes?

- Wendy Hughes, Nicholas Gledhill

Review By: Jeff Ulmer  
Published: November 13, 2001

Stars: Wendy Hughes, Robyn Nevin, Nicholas Gledhill
Other Stars: John Hargreaves, Geraldine Turner, Isabelle Anderson, Peter Whitford, Colleen Clifford, Edward Howell, Jacqueline Kott, Julie Nihill, Michael Long, Len London, Beth Child, Colin Croft, Virginia Portingale, Pega Williams, Kylie Burgess, Tony Blanchard
Director: Carl Schultz

Manufacturer: IFPI
MPAA Rating: PG for (mature subject matter, language)
Run Time: 01h:53m:04s
Release Date: October 16, 2001
UPC: 014381077223
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A+ A+B+A D+

DVD Review

Director Carl Schultz first came to my attention with his work on To Walk With Lions. His filmography also features the Demi Moore thriller, The Seventh Sign, along with a number of made-for-TV or home video Young Indiana Jones titles, though it was this film's Australian origins that caught my interest. From a promotional aspect, the film's title, Careful, He Might Hear You may have gone a bit too far. In fact, had it not been for Image's announcement of this DVD, I probably would never have heard of the film, as it seems about as below the radar as a title can get, despite sweeping the Australian Film Institute's Awards (their version of the Oscar®) in 1983 with eight wins (including Best Picture, production design, director and cinematography) and another five nominations. How this failed to show up as a foreign picture contender in the U.S. is beyond me, as this is one exceptional film, easily deserving of its home country accolades. Every facet is superb, from the story through the performances.

P.S.: I belong to you and George.
Lila: Of course you do, and nothing's going to change that.

Set in the Depression, Careful, He Might Hear You, based on the award winning novel by Sumner Locke Elliott, follows a bitter custody battle over a seven-year-old orphan (Nicholas Gledhill), dubbed "P.S." by his Bohemian mother, who died shortly after his birth, as "a postscript to her ridiculous life." Living under loving guardianship of his working class aunt Lila (Robyn Nevin) and uncle George (Peter Whitford), their custody of the boy is challenged with the arrival of his aunt Vanessa (Wendy Hughes), whose wealth and influence threaten to disrupt his home. Under authority of the boy's estranged father (John Hargreaves), Ness introduces P.S. to the world of the privileged, replacing his childhood freedoms of playing with the neighbor's daughter, with the formalities of private school, piano lessons and riding class, though her motives begin to come clear as the film progresses. The differences in their approach to the boy's upbringing are equalled only by their differences in class. As the tensions between the adults grows deeper, the boy must wage his own battle for the life he wants, as the family divisiveness threatens his future happiness.

The brilliance with which this film unfolds is exquisite. Cinematographer John Seale fills the screen with sumptuous and beautiful imagery, and deliberate composition which perfectly sets the tone of the film. Camera angles enhance each scene with their sense of perspective, capturing the world and events surrounding him through the eyes of the young P.S. The score is powerful and appropriately carries the emotional undercurrents of each scene. The casting is flawless, especially the child actors who display a skill well beyond their years, from Nicholas Gledhill—who easily holds his own in a commanding portrayal of P.S. Merritt—to the neighbor girl, Winnie Grindel (Pega Williams), and school bully (who I believe is Kylie Burgess as Cynthia). The adults, who embody a wealth of distinct personalities, also excel in their parts, from the principles (Wendy Hughes won an AFI award for Best Actress) to the supporting characters, including John Hargreaves' AFI award-winning role and those of P.S.' aunts, the colorful Vere (Geraldine Turner) and eccentric Agnes (Isabelle Anderson). The direction and editing unravel the plot with perfect pacing and powerful exposition. The payoff is a film as rich in its look as its story.

Coming of age films can often become overly melodramatic, or veer off course, but this is not the case with Careful, He Might Hear You. Each scene is a work of art, deepening the viewer's involvement, and building the world of the child in a plausible and sympathetic way. There is ample drama and an equal dosing of black humor, as the boy struggles with the situations both at home and at school that try his childhood. As he comes to understand the situation he finds himself in, his growth as a young man is carried with perfection in both style and substance. From the humiliation at the hands of the school mistress, to the interactions with his aunts and uncle, the character of P.S. is tested and shaped, as the destination of his journey draws to its unexpected conclusion. This one is well worth the investment, and gets my highest recommendation.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Careful He Might Hear You is presented in its 2.35:1 aspect ratio in an anamorphic transfer. The film's rich color pallette is well preserved, with solid black levels and contrast. The image is slightly on the soft side, and does exhibit a bit of aliasing and grain. There are visible compression issues in a few scenes where backgrounds such as trees and grasses can be seen moving unnaturally, though these will be missed on smaller screens. Print defects are minor and extremely limited. On the whole this looks quite good, specific scenes aside.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The stereo soundtrack is full range, with clear dialogue and suitable directionality. The powerful score suits the film well, and is full and enveloping.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Packaging: other
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Where this disc has its downside is in the complete lack of extras. Even the chapter listing on the insert is lacking printing on its second side.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

It doesn't get any better than this. Careful, He Might Hear You is a remarkable film in every respect, and demands to be seen. From the brilliant portrayals by the cast, to the stunning cinematography and perfect direction, this film was a surprise and a treat, as the drama of a bitter custody battle unfolds around the heartwarming coming of age of a young Australian boy. I can't say enough about this film, this one is definitely not to be missed.


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