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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Felicia's Journey (1999)

"Lost within a man who murdered there was a soul like any other. Purity itself it surely once had been."
- Felicia (Elaine Cassidy)

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: June 05, 2000

Stars: Bob Hoskins, Elaine Cassidy
Other Stars: Arsinee Khanjian
Director: Atom Egoyan

Manufacturer: Laser Pacific Media Corporation
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic elements, disturbing images
Run Time: 01h:55m:48s
Release Date: May 16, 2000
UPC: 012236101345
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A-AA A-

DVD Review

Based on William Trevor's novel, Atom Egoyan's Felicia's Journey explores a difficult subject with sensitivity and intelligence. Bob Hoskins stars as Joseph Hilditch, a troubled, lonely catering manager and collector with a penchant for "adopting" young girls in need of assistance. Felicia (Elaine Cassidy) travels from her home in Ireland to Birmingham, England in search of her erstwhile boyfriend (Peter McDonald); failing in her mission and dependent on the kindly Mr. Hilditch, she moves into his house and becomes aware of his dark secret.

Felicia's Journey is an engrossing character study, prepared with superb attention to detail by Egoyan and performed simply and naturally by his talented leads. The film is slowly paced, building its impact through an accumulation of small, telling details, leading to an unexpected climax which I won't give away here. Egoyan develops each character's background via flashbacks, video clips and recurring motifs, and his restrained, somewhat distant style fits this delicate, deep material well. An epilogue at the film's end feels organic and satisfying, not "tacked-on" or clumsy. The film takes a while to get going and occasionally lags a bit, but the time it takes to explore and examine its characters is well spent.

Bob Hoskins, often at his best in small films like this one, delivers a touching, sympathetic portrayal of a man who has planned and done terrible things out of confusion and pain; he resists "chewing the scenery" and delivers a complex, convincing performance. Relative newcomer Elaine Cassidy is naïve yet mature as a pregnant girl lost in an unfamiliar city but gamely struggling to make things right. This isn't a plot-heavy movie by any means—both performances are critical to the film's effectiveness, and both are fascinating to watch.



Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: I found nothing to complain about in Artisan's 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer. Compression artifacts are scarce, colors (generally muted with a few brighter spots) are solid and the source print is very clean. There's a bit of "floating white" visible in some video-clip scenes, but these are meant to be visually degraded. Difficult compression challenges like chain link fences and trees are generally well-handled in this dual-layer disc, with no moire effects or other issues I couldn't attribute to my player's anamorphic downconversion.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Felicia's Journey features a rich Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack. Quiet dramas like this are not often graced with the enveloping sound effects and score audible on this DVD. The film was originally mixed in DD5.1 for theatrical distribution, and the transfer preserves the original digital soundtrack accurately. LFE bass is on the quiet side but perfectly appropriate—loud bass is only called for in a few factory scenes, where it comes through fine. Sound effects pan from front to back without calling attention to themselves, dialogue and music are well-separated, and this is a fine, subtle and well-balanced soundtrack.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
2 Original Trailer(s)
4 TV Spots/Teasers
Production Notes
Isolated Music Score with remote access
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Atom Egoyan
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 01h:29m:00s

Extra Extras:
  1. Recipes
  2. Hilditch's Video Collection
  3. Gala's Cooking Show
  4. Cast & Crew Interviews
Extras Review: Artisan has done a fine job in this area. The Felicia's Journey DVD features beautifully designed, user-friendly animated menus. Extras are plentiful, and most are valuable—supplements include:

Atom Egoyan Commentary:

Writer/director Atom Egoyan discusses Felicia's Journey and its making—he talks about many of the details and motifs, paying a lot of attention to sound and music design. He's not the most dynamic speaker, but the track enhances one's appreciation of this carefully constructed movie and fills in a few subtleties that may not be evident on first viewing. The commentary is in Dolby 2.0 surround, with Egoyan's voice emerging from the center speaker and the film's soundtrack in limited surround.

Isolated Music Score:

Mychael Danna's bold Celtic-influenced score is presented in full DD5.1 surround; some of the pop-music pieces used in the soundtrack are unfortunately omitted, and the track is quiet for long stretches, but the score is rich and enveloping when it kicks in.

Hilditch's Video Collection:

This supplement features expanded, clean clips of Hilditch's video recordings of seven previous girls as seen in fuzzy, degraded form in the feature. Shot on videotape in a 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio, these are well-transferred and provide a lot of insight into the personalities briefly glimpsed in the finished film. The clips have an improvisational quality, but are carefully edited to eliminate goofs and filmmaking tipoffs; these interesting clips provide another window into the film's world.

Gala's Cooking Show:

This technical supplement looks at a sequence from the film in which Hilditch watches an old videotape of his mother Gala on her television cooking show. The unprocessed, raw 1.33:1 video footage shot for this segment is made available for comparison (as a separate clip, not an alternate angle feature.)

Production Notes:

Well-written and fairly extensive Production Notes discuss the novel-to-screen history of Felicia's Journey, with quotes from the actors and production staff. Some of the material is covered elsewhere on the disc, but these text screens are concise and readable.

Cast & Crew:

Conventional but well-organized biographies and filmographies for seven actors and three members of the production crew. Links to several interviews are provided (the same interviews are also available from the main Special Features menu.)

Recipes:

This section presents two recipes from Hilditch's mother's cooking show in case you want to sample dishes seen in the film. Not the most practical inclusion, but an interesting novelty. Bon appetit!

Cast & Crew Interviews:

Brief interview clips with Egoyan, Hoskins and Cassidy are presented, shot on 1.33:1 video and organized by topic. These repeat some "sound bites" from the Featurette but are more complete and in-depth.

Trailers & TV Spots:

Two theatrical trailers (in 2.35:1 widescreen, DS2.0) and four television spots (1.33:1 full-frame, DS2.0) from the film's theatrical marketing campaign. They're nothing out-of-the-ordinary and they give away a few plot elements, but it's nice to have them included and all are well-transferred.

Featurette:

This is a 7-minute promotional featurette, deeper than most but still basically an extended commercial for the film. It's worth watching AFTER you've seen the main attraction, as it does contain some real information.



Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

Felicia's Journey is a cerebral, touching film about a subject rarely portrayed from such a sympathetic perspective. The dual-layer DVD transfer is one of the best I've seen from Artisan, and the extensive supplements enhance the main attraction. Not for those with short attention spans, but well worth the two-hour investment. Recommended.

 


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