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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Rain
Rain
Image // R // July 27, 2010
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Preston Jones | posted November 3, 2010 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

Journeys of self-discovery have been fodder for cinematic dramas long before Julia Roberts ate, prayed and loved her way around the world. Like love or death, finding out who you are is a universal experience, one shared by every culture on the planet. It's rich material for a filmmaker to mine and indeed, many rewarding films -- Into the Wild or The Darjeeling Limited, say -- have sprung from writers and directors in search of something about themselves or others. More often than not, such films slip over the line from earnest to maudlin, squandering whatever goodwill has been earned. Fortunately, the Bahamian-set Rain, writer-director Maria Govan's feature film debut, a few false notes notwithstanding, falls more into the well-executed than the missed opportunity camp.

"People run for all kinds of reasons," says track coach Ms. Adams (CCH Pounder) not long into Rain. The titular character, Rain Monroe (an astonishingly confident acting debut from Renel Brown), runs to feel a sense of freedom, to escape her dreary existence and, perhaps even more importantly, because she excels as a sprinter. Following the death of her grandmother Rosalie (Irma P. Hall, who doesn't survive the opening credits), with whom she'd lived since birth, Rain heads for Nassau to reconcile with her estranged mother, Glory (Nicki Micheaux), who has fallen into a life of drug abuse and prostitution. While attempting to find familial love and survive in a rough-and-tumble part of Nassau, Rain is spurred on by Ms. Adams to tap her talents and truly make something of herself.

Govan's film succeeds largely because of Renel Brown's exceptional turn as the teenage girl at the center of everything; there's a freshness and an appealing lack of polish to her performance that grounds even the most trite sequences. Micheaux, although saddled with the cliched role of the vice-addled mother yearning to turn her life around, has a few moments to shine, while Pounder provides reliable support as the tough-minded but big-hearted mentor. (If only the production had had money for a dialect coach; many of the non-native cast members fail to capture the distinct Bahamian accent.) The narrative hits plenty of familiar notes along the way -- there are faintly hokey elements of spirituality involving Rain's birth; Rain grapples with drug experimentation and sexual violence; Rain witnesses her mother selling her body to strange men -- but it's refreshing to see an earthier side of a place like the Bahamas (a la the visceral urgency of a film like City of God, which typically only strikes Americans as a tourism destination.

Although Rain doesn't break much new ground, it mostly tells its story well, thanks to Renel Brown and her assured performance as the title character. Writer-director Govan shows promise here; her tale of a young woman searching for herself avoids the pitfalls that can afflict earnest stories about self-discovery. It's a low-key, honestly told, evocatively filmed story that may find a small, yet appreciative audience on DVD.

The DVD

The Video:

Rain arrives on DVD with a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The film, a low-budget independent production, has an appealing grit to its image that lends an authenticity and immediacy to writer-director Govan's narrative. There are hints of softness throughout and the nighttime scenes often suffer from the aforementioned grit and a bit of video noise, but for the most part, Rain looks OK, with a rich, albeit slightly bleached-out, palette, fine detail (there's a brief glimpse of a fishmonger early on that feels almost documentary-like) and crisp, deep black levels.

The Audio:

The English, Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, which relies heavily on dialogue flavored with Bahamian accents (to varying degrees of success), rarely bursts to life, although the frequent appearance of indigenous pop songs lends a bit of life. The atmospheric touches -- the opening thunderstorm has appropriate heft -- are handled without stepping on the actors' lines, giving Rain a servicable aural presentation on disc. Optional English and Spanish subtitles are also included; given the occasionally impenetrable accents, they do come in handy.

The Extras:

There are no supplements.

Final Thoughts:

Journeys of self-discovery have been fodder for cinematic dramas long before Julia Roberts ate, prayed and loved her way around the world. Like love or death, finding out who you are is a universal experience, one shared by every culture on the planet. It's rich material for a filmmaker to mine and indeed, many rewarding films have sprung from writers and directors in search of something about themselves or others. More often than not, such films slip over the line from earnest to maudlin, squandering whatever goodwill has been earned. Fortunately, the Bahamian-set Rain, writer-director Maria Govan's feature film debut, a few false notes notwithstanding, falls more into the well-executed than the missed opportunity camp. Although Rain doesn't break much new ground, it mostly tells its story well, thanks to Renel Brown and her assured performance as the title character. Writer-director Govan shows promise here; her tale of a young woman searching for herself avoids the pitfalls that can afflict earnest stories about self-discovery. It's a low-key, honestly told, evocatively filmed story that may find a small, yet appreciative audience on DVD. Rent it.

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