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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Heartlands
Heartlands
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // PG-13 // September 28, 2004
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted October 29, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The movie

Describing a movie in terms of another, more successful film seems to be, if not the kiss of death, at least a sign that the film in question may not live up to its marketing. I still remember an advertisement for a now-mercifully-forgotten action film that trumpeted its identity as "Die Hard on a ship!" Heartlands doesn't venture into that realm of marketing idiocy, but its enthusiastic claim of being "In the feel-good style of The Full Monty!" leaves something to be desired. About the only thing that Heartlands has in common with The Full Monty is that its characters are working-class Brits with troubled lives. Heartlands isn't even really a comedy (or worse, if it's trying to be a comedy, I didn't notice.).

Heartlands focuses on Colin (Michael Sheen), the owner of a small newsstand along with his wife Sandra (Jane Robbins). It's immediately evident that Colin's life is one of very narrow horizons: waiting, bored, for customers in his shop; hanging out at the local pub with his pals. It's no wonder that Sandra decides she's had enough and takes off with one of Colin's friends. This shock to Colin's settled existence is finally enough to pull him out of his routine, and he sets off on his scooter to find Sandra. And although it takes nearly a third of Heartlands' 90-minute running time to get him this far, it's Colin's journey, and what he learns about himself on it, that is really the point of the film.

The trouble is that it's hard to really care about Colin, or for that matter, about anybody in the film. None of the characters are particularly interesting or sympathetic. There's really no humor to be found here, but not much drama, either; there's just not much reason to follow Colin on his journey with any particular attention. I suspect that director Damien O'Donnell was trying to give viewers a glimpse of the narrow, often difficult lives of ordinary working people, but we never see anything beyond the surface, even with Colin. Who are these people, and why should we care about their emotional lives? That's a question that's never resolved satisfactorily in Heartlands.

To its credit, Heartlands does wrap up with an ending that surprised me, as it opts not to take any of the more conventional paths that I'd have expected it to take. Even so, the conclusion isn't entirely convincing; Sheen and Robbins do their best to make their final scene work, but it just doesn't click.

The DVD

Video

Miramax's handling of this title makes me suspect it was a definite back-burner release. While the film does get an anamorphic treatment (it appears in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio), it's an otherwise fairly bland transfer. The opening credits are in very poor condition for a 2002 film, and while the numerous speckles and dirt on the print are reduced in number once the main film starts, it's far from clean overall. Edge enhancement is very much in evidence, and a substantial amount of grain appears in low-light scenes.

Audio

The soundtrack here is a Dolby 5.1, though you wouldn't really be able to tell; there's minimal use of the surround channels. The dialogue is carried reasonably well, with the actors generally sounding clear, and there's no noise or distortion in the track. Still, some of the scenes sound flat, and at times the volume seems to dip down too low.

Extras

The only special feature is a trailer for Jersey Girl.

Final thoughts

Heartlands can best be described as a rather bland film. It doesn't have anything particular wrong with it, as it's competently made and acted; nonetheless, it lacks a real hook for the viewer to make it a compelling story. It's probably an adequate rental, but that's about it.

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