Independent filmmaker Carter Smith's Love Rome is an unusual hybrid of indy/arthouse sensibilities mixed in with some stark documentary footage shot during the attacks that occurred in New York City on September 11th, 2001. Through four stories, Smith attempts to show the all to real way that those events have affected people, while at the same time showing how relationships between men and women more often than not work in a four part cycle. Each of the four stories focuses in on a different couple, and each one of those different couples is at a different stage in their relationship together.
Belinda and Tariq are the fresh new couple, so enveloped in each other and enthralled with their new relationship that they'll have no problems adjusting to what has happened around them – they believe their love will conquer all, and who knows, they might just be right. Esther and Will have just found out that Esther is pregnant, they're not sure if they want to bring a baby into the world after what they've just witnessed and with the inevitable war that they know will occur because of the attacks. Angela and Dean are in the awkward situation of, as the box puts it, 'transitioning' from one lover to the next, adding insult to injury during a time of international crisis. Finally, Mary and John are breaking up with each other though the current state of world events may wreak havoc on how that all plays out in the end.
Love Rome benefits from a pretty decent cast of independent performers (Angela Bettis of May plays Mary, and she's been great in everything that I've seen her in – this film is no exception and she has the added bonus of being really cute as well) and the story unfolds fast enough that although its easy to lose focus during the 9/11 scenes, it reels back in when it switches from one part to the next easily enough.
Some of the September 11 footage isn't pleasant to re-watch and while some may argue that this shouldn't be worked into something that is primarily entertainment, Smith has the good sense to handle it tastefully and poignantly. The reactions that the actual citizens of New York during the actual attacks furthers the 'slice of life' feel that the film was going for and brings a sense of realism to the movie that would have been hard to achieve had that footage not been inserted into the film.
The film certainly won't appeal to a mainstream audience, as it moves at an odd pace and is a little jolting at times with its content but the performances and the story do make this worth a look. The cinematography blends the real footage and the 'shot' footage together almost seemlessly and while the movie isn't always successful in its portrayal of relationships (a few things seem slightly far fetched) its close enough and interesting enough to make it worth a look.
The film was shot on digital video and it does have a fair bit of evident mpeg compression across the image at any given time, most noticeable during the darker scenes that occur indoors. The video quality gives the film a sort of cinema verite look that works well in amongst the real life documentary footage, but at times the transfer could have been a bit cleaner and the colors a little brighter because much of the movie footage is quite flat looking.
The English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix has no alternate audio mixes, closed captioning options, or subtitle options. Some of the outdoor scenes don't sound too good and a times portions of the dialogue is muffled. Some of the indoor scenes are a bit flat sounding as well and there isn't much range on this track. While the movie is almost completely dialogue based and thus not required to have a fancy surround mix or anything like that, it would have helped if the sound had been a little bit cleaner sounding. That being said with the way the film was made, having that sort of 'man on the street' feel to it, this mix somehow seems to fit.
There are no extra features at all on this DVD.
Well, Love Rome doesn't look or sound so hot on this DVD (most of that is probably due to the conditions and equipment used on the shoot) and there are no extra features at all on this release but the film itself is an interesting experiment of sorts and is worth a look. I can't say you should run out and plunk down your hard earned cash to get a copy but it is certainly worth a rental.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.