This ropey seventies romantic drama, as infused with odd moments of comedy as it is, was directed by Alvin Rakoff is interesting enough as a seventies time capsule but isn't a particularly riveting film by any stretch. The film begins when a beautiful middle aged woman (Jean Simmons) who leaves her husband at home to head into London and go shopping for the day. As she takes the train into the city, she's spotted by a young man (Leonard Whiting) who is instantly, and obviously, quite taken with her. Though in many ways she's completely out of his league, he decides he's not going to let that dampen his efforts and so he basically spends the rest of the day following her around town while she tries to get rid of him.
While by today's standards his actions sound creepy and stalkerish and would likely land him in trouble with the cops, apparently in the seventies hot middle aged ladies found this type of behavior endearing and cute. Eventually she heads to meet her mother, who more or less tells her she'd regret not enjoying a fling with the guy, and with that, her walls come down and their love affair begins.
Story wise, Say Hello To Yesterday is pretty hokey stuff. It's overly melodramatic, the characters are paper thin and entirely uninteresting, and the story doesn't really have much to offer outside of the younger guy/older woman angle. On top of that, it's hard to like the male character. While Whiting isn't a half bad actor (he was good in Romeo And Juliet), his character is obnoxious and irritating and what is supposed to be passed off as cute, charming or endearing instead comes off as immature and deplorable. A perfect example of this is a scene in a train station where he wants to get on a packed train to keep up his pursuit. To accomplish this, he starts screaming that his mother has passed out which in turn causes a bunch of people to slow down and dissipate while he coyly gets in the car. If that weren't bad enough, he tries to get 'Her' attention by stealing her purse and periodically cries and whines when he doesn't get his way. This character isn't cute, charming or endearing, rather, this character is in need of a smack.
Simmons' more mature woman is somewhat more likeable. She's got a grace and charm and beauty to her that at least lets us understand how and why Whiting could fall for her the way that he does in the film. It's hard to buy her actually coming around and wanting to indulge him, which makes the last half of the movie tough to swallow, but that's not the fault of her performance so much as it is an issue with the script. You never once feel like they would make a good pair and because you never feel they belong together, it's very tough to invest enough in their plight to care about what happens. The fact that she never once gives us even an inkling of motivation is another problem. She isn't unhappy with her life, doesn't speak ill of her husband, and has no real reason to want to have an affair with an obnoxious jackass of a man - so why does she do it? The movie doesn't give us the impression that her loins burn for him and it's unlikely that it's his irritating personality that eventually drives her to him. Instead it just sort of happens at random.
The film isn't a total loss. As mentioned early, it has some nice time capsule qualities to it. There's a lot of great footage of seventies era London used throughout the picture that gives it some atmosphere and ensures that, if nothing else, it's got some great locations. On top of that, there's a pretty emotive and evocative score from none other than Riz Ortolani in the film that is used quite well. The film looks good and it sounds good but it's so thin in terms of character development and actual plot that the film's good qualities can't outweigh the bad ones.
NOTE: This review is based off of a test disc (though it appears to at least represent finished product).
Say Hello To Yesterday looks excellent in this 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen presentation (transferred in HD from the original negative, according to the packaging). The progressive scan image shows only minute instances of print damage and while it does have that odd sort of seventies softness to its cinematography in spots, detail is generally pretty good. Color reproduction looks great, though the color palette used for the picture isn't the most vibrant, and black levels, while not reference quality, are quite strong as well. Flesh tones look good, there aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts or edge enhancement at all - a nice effort all around in the video department!
The English language Dolby Digital Mono track on this is also quite strong. It's well balanced, easy to follow and free of any hiss or distortion. A few sequences sound a little bit flat but that's likely got more to do with the nature of the recording than with the DVD. All in all, it sounds quite good. No alternate language options or subtitles have been provided for this release.
The only extras of any substance on this release is an audio commentary with the film's director/co-writer, Alvin Rakoff, moderated by Tony Sloman. It's a decent track that lets Rakoff discuss his motivations while making the film, why certain performers were cast in their roles, writing the film, putting the project together and why specific locations were chosen for certain scenes. It's not always the most enthusiastic discussion but it does deliver a good amount of information about the film and the people who made it. Aside from that, look for a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Scorpion Releasing pictures, menus and chapter stops.
The test disc of Say Hello To Yesterday sent to review is a perfectly good one, but the film itself is really not all that interesting despite some good performances and nice camera work. Those with a pre-existing affinity for dramatic romance films might get more out of it than the casual viewer and there's no denying that all involved did a fine job as far as the technique and score are concerned, but the story is plodding and the characters hard to sympathize with. Rent it if it sounds up your alley, otherwise, this is probably a film you can do without.
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.