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Lions Gate presents
"I'll start at the beginning, as all stories must..."
DVD ReviewAs a gentle, modern-day fairy tale, Sheri Elwood's Deeply (2000) is at first glance quite similar in tone to John Sayle's The Secret Of Roan Inish (1994), with a bit of The Wicker Man, in it's examination of a tight-knit island community, and the effects of ancient legends as a controlling force on the lives of it's inhabitants. While Sayles was able to instill an eerie and offbeat veneer as he unfolded the story of a selkie (a seal that can turn human), Elwood features a lead character named Silly whose own life is also deeply (hence the title) and magically immersed in the lore of the sea. The stories have some striking parallels as reality merges with myth, though Elwood's story moves along a slightly more predictable path.
College-aged Claire MacKay (Julia Brendler) and her mother Fiona (Alberta Watson) have inherited a home on an isolated island community somewhere off the coast of Nova Scotia, where fishing is the one and only lifeblood of it's hard-working people. Claire is edgy and sullen, more so than a typical teen, the result of some vaguely referenced accident that has distanced her emotionally from her mother. She is moody and argumentative, and does not readily accept her mother's plea to get a new start at their relationship on the rugged island. During one of her lonely island explorations, Claire has a pivotal encounter with a local recluse, an author named Celia (Lynn Redgrave). Celia begins to read aloud her latest rejected book to a reluctant Claire, much like Peter Falk did to Fred Savage in The Princess Bride, and as her story unfolds, the young girl is drawn in with an almost hypnotic force. It's here that Elwood shifts gears and interjects a new narrative as the story jumps back and forth between Claire and the world of Celia's story.
Silly (Kirsten Dunst) is the tough young heroine of Celia's story, a girl born and raised on the island, who is almost immediately considered to be "The One" in whispered hushes by the other inhabitants. What that means is not made clear right away, but it is eventually revealed that Silly may be the latest incarnation of an ancient Viking curse that has plagued the island for hundreds of years, and can only be broken by death. Elwood's story is adequately moving when needed, though some of the middle section detailing Silly's ill-fated relationship with James (Trent Ford), the son of a wealthy Admiral drags on with a hearty dose of goo-goo eyes.
Dunst's accent bounces around like a superball, as if she couldn't settle on a proper dialect. She downplays her good looks, appearing naturally ruddy as result of the harsh island climate. As Claire, Brendler's natural German accent creeps in and out quite a bit, and only adds to confusion of just what exactly the national origins of these characters are. Brendler gives a nice turn as the confused and morose teen, and I thought her performance was one of the stronger in the film. Lynn Redgrave, always a solid performer, appears infrequently, but as usual she dominates all of the scenes she appears in.
The difficulty in marketing Deeply resulted in Lion's Gate issuing this DVD with cover art that features a far more sultry Kirsten Dunst than appears in the film, wearing what appears to be a much more modern outfit than her character would ever have owned. Obviously trading on the marquee value of Dunst's name, over accurately promoting the film, has resulted in another example of shoddy promotional art that in no way captures the sometimes dark and mystical tone of Elwood's film.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-
Image Transfer Review: Not a widescreen image, but a nice 1.33:1 full-frame image transfer from Lion's Gate nonetheless. There is little in the way of blemishes, and even with the lack of a widescreen print, the film never loses much of it's visual appeal. The color field is well-saturated, and the flesh tones appear natural. Some ringing is evident in spots, but in general the transfer comes across fairly clean.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: Deeply's perfectly serviceable 2.0 surround mix works well across the front channels, with dialogue presented clearly and cleanly. Some minor rear channel cues feature waves, seabirds and the like, and give this simple tale a little more atmosphere.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Uncorked, Sand
Extras Review: Subtitles (English and Spanish), three trailers and 24 chapter stops are all Lion's Gate issued for this release.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsDeeply is a beautiful-looking fairy tale that is sadly hampered by a range of shifting accents and an unresolved storyline or two. The flaws here are minor enough, and the overall film, though a wee bit on the predictable side during the third act, does convey a proper mood of not only isolation, but of curses and magic. It is an engaging enough tale, one that moves constantly between past and present along a well-worn path of vague familiarity. Some of the elements that I thought would be treated as grand reveals are introduced with deliberate subtlety, and Sheri Elwood never beats the viewer over the head with too many instances of ham-handed dramatics.
Not as surreal as Sayle's The Secret Of Roan Inish, Deeply veers briefly into the realm of ancient lore to create a more movie-of-the-week type encounter that has more satisfying moments than not.
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