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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Under the Greenwood Tree
Under the Greenwood Tree
BBC Worldwide // Unrated // April 25, 2006
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted May 14, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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A beautiful, well-acted and brisk (at 98 minutes, the picture remains straightforward and focused) BBC adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel, "Under the Greenwood Tree". Set in the quiet village of Mellstock, "Tree"'s focus is the return of lovely young woman Fancy Day (the terrific Keely Hawes), which sets off the hearts of some of the town's men, including the poor Dick Dewy (James Murray), wealthy Mr. Shiner (Steve Pemberton) and uppity Parson Maybold (Ben Miles).

Returning home to care for her ailing father, Day becomes the town's new schoolteacher. However, the town is interested in seeing which one of the town's men will win her heart. While Dewy initially gets her attention, the other men also make their intentions known and her father lets her know that the wealthiest of the suitors would be his choice for her. Meanwhile, the members of the local church choir find themselves having to face change when it's suddenly announced that Miss Day will be replacing them as she will be playing the church's new harmonium.

The film's tale is simple, but it's well told, with excellent performances and lovely visuals. Director Nicholas Laughland handles the material quite superbly; while it's rather light in tone, there's still enough weight to the proceedings that important moments have the kind of impact they should. Additionally, the picture looks at class and social traditions of the time in a manner that's not too heavy-handed. Additionally, the performances are pleasant and subtle, with Day offering a terrific performance that shows her thoughts and inner debate about her choice with a mere look. Casting is excellent, as Hawes has excellent chemistry with Murray and the supporting performances are fun and believable.

As for the film's visuals, the UK locations are quite beautiful and the interiors are detailed and seem accurate to the time period. Production design, cinematography and costumes are all at a higher level of quality here than what one would expect for a television production. Again, the picture also remains tight and focused, with seemingly no padding in its quick 98 minutes.

Those in the mood for a period romance that's on the light side should certainly check out this pleasant production.

The DVD

VIDEO: "Greenwood" is presented by Warner Brothers/BBC in the film's original 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality is perfectly fine, as while the picture was seemingly shot with a somewhat soft look in mind, most scenes still show off a pleasant amount of detail. Some minor traces of pixelation were spotted in the background of some darker scenes, but the image was otherwise smooth and clean, with no visible edge enhancement or visible wear. Colors were understandably on the subdued side, but seemed accurately presented.

SOUND: The film's stereo soundtrack was just fine, with crisp dialogue and a rich, clean presentation of the film's elegant, lovely score.

EXTRAS: A 24-minute "making of" documentary is exclusive to the DVD. However, the documentary does take a little while to get going and spends a surprising time discussing the story and characters that we've just watched and showing surprisingly long clips from the film. Once the piece finally gets going in the second half we do get some better tidbits and behind-the-scenes clips, but there's still not quite that much information, given the running time.

Final Thoughts: Light (but moving), well acted and beautifully filmed, "Under the Greenwood Tree" is a swift period piece that I found quite enjoyable. The DVD edition offers very good audio/video quality, as well as one supplement. Recommended.
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