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"You wouldn't catch me crying if I got to leave. I'd smile and wave goodbye."
DVD Review"I wasn't really born here you know. As a tiny infant, my real mother, a famous opera singer, dropped me from a silver jet, as she passed over what she saw as a beautiful, tropical coastline. God's country." - Mooney Pottie
Every so often a title comes across my desk that catches me completely off guard, and New Waterford Girl is one of them. The film takes place in the early 1970s, in the small village of New Waterford on Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island. Perched on the edge of the Atlantic ocean, this predominantly Catholic seaside community is unusual in that while born from its coal mines, it is also a fishing village, and all of its residents make their living from one industry or the other. Tradition runs deep here, and for young girls, the prospects for a life beyond the sheltered community are next to none. The film is directed by Allan Moyle, of Empire Records and Pump Up the Volume fame, and with New Waterford Girl, he has created a gem—a clever and very funny coming-of-age picture, and one that had me mesmerized from beginning to end.
"You can't even be normal in a town this size." - Francis Pottie
Fifteen-year-old Agnes Marie 'Mooney' Pottie is dreamer. She does not fit in with her peers, and aspires to something more than the mediocrity that awaits her in New Waterford. Her wit and intelligence is recognized by her school teacher, who in seeing the girl's potential, arranges for a scholarship to New York City. Mooney's parents, however, will have nothing of it, hoping she'll outgrow this awkward phase and settle down into a normal life. As fate would have it, a new neighbor moves in next door, an outspoken American girl a year Mooney's senior, who has left the Bronx with her mother to escape a scandal. As the pair of outsiders develop a friendship, Mooney twigs on a plan to free herself of her home town, the only way New Waterford girls ever get to leave—and turns the community upside down in the process.
"My idea is devious. Sinful. Inspired." - Mooney
From the cinematography, which emphasizes the stark, grey maritime atmosphere, to an excellent soundtrack, everything about this film works. It provides a captivating slice of life, with the quirkiness and humor derived from attention to the details of small town life. The opening scene of a combined wedding and wake (to save expenses),Mooney's ten-second sightseeing tour of the town by flailing her arms in every direction and the neighbor's brother rushing through the door with a bloody nose exclaiming "I found a friend!" envelops the audience in the claustrophobic mentality that surrounds the characters.
"Ask me anything." - Mooney
Liane Balaman, in her film debut, does a brilliant job portraying the sullen Mooney, capturing the essence of a teenager daydreaming about a different life than what she's been dealt. Adding an outsider's perspective and insight to her new best friend, Tara Spencer-Nairn equals Balaman's performance as her outgoing American buddy, eager to fit in, and delegated an unusual role in the high school circles. Mooney's parents are played by Nicholas Campbell and Mary Walsh, and both carry the airs of confused 1970s adults to perfection, as does Andrew McCarthy as Mooney's understanding teacher, who also happens to have a crush on her.
The story is sweet, the script is saturated in maritime charm, and the direction is spot on. While some of the Canadian in-jokes (like gathering in front of the television for Hockey Night in Canada) may be missed by foreign audiences, there is easily enough small town identity for many to resonate with, as the film is infused with the kind of subtle humor that can only be found by mirroring real life. As Mooney unravels her plan, the plot gets thicker, until the whole community is about to explode. For these young girls, they find their chance to learn what it means to be a New Waterford Girl.
Do yourself a favor, don't miss this one.
Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+
Image Transfer Review: Presented in nonanamorphic 1.85:1, the image quality is good, but there is room for improvement. Colors look to be the intended drab palette intended for the film, black levels are solid, and a couple of scenes looked a shade on the dark side. There are frequent, though minor compression distortions, and a moderate amount of aliasing and some interlace artifacts. The image is slightly soft, with natural-looking film grain.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: The soundtrack is available in either stereo or 5.1 surround. The surround track is quite good, with a full frequency spectrum and nice directionality. The stereo track is much more center focused and less open on the top end. Dialogue is dynamic and sometimes obscured, though this seems intentional. With the clever dialogue throughout the film, a revisit will help pick out subtleties. The music chosen for the soundtrack totally suits the film, and is presented very well.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Extras Review: A nice inclusion is a better than average, 11m:05s behind-the-scenes featurette, in which the cast members, director Allan Moyle and writer Tricia Fish share their thoughts on the film. For those not familiar with Canadian culture, there are also some clues to references made in the feature that might otherwise be missed.
The theatrical trailer and fairly comprehensive filmographies for the main cast and director are also included. In addition, there are addresses for the film's official website (which doesn't work) and Wellspring's homepage.
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsThis is one of the best movies I have seen in a very long time. A fantastic coming of age story, New Waterford Girl captures the spirit of small town maritime life, as a young woman tries to free herself from the traditional lifestyle she has been born into. With wonderfully funny scripting, excellent casting, and impeccable performances all around, this will have a hard time being displaced from my top ten list this year. Highly recommended!
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