Alias Betty gets off to a fast start on a train where we see an older woman in glasses and a young girl sharing a booth. Suddenly the older one takes out a pair of scissors and stabs the young girl in the hand.
Many years go by and we are thrust into modern day where it is revealed that the two are mother and daughter. The daughter now is a successful novelist living with her young son on the outskirts of Paris. As the credits begin she welcomes her mother for a short visit and you know everything will go haywire.
Betty (Sandrine Kiberlain) is a gaunt blond woman who rarely smiles. But she has good reason because shortly after her mother (Nicole Garcia) arrives her young son falls out of a window and dies. While Betty recovers from shock her mother decides to rectify the situation by kidnapping a boy to replacing the dead one.
The film then becomes a thrilling, mysterious ride into the intersecting lives of all of the people associated and related to the young kidnapped boy.
The French title of the film is 'Betty Fisher and other stories' and it is a lot more accurate in terms of the film's narrative structure. Director Claude Miller does an excellent job of shifting the narrative between the various situations and people who make up the plot. We get good insights into the lives and motivations of everyone including Betty, the young kidnapped boy and his estranged parents – one of whom is an opportunistic prostitute and the other a dim-witted drug dealer.
Alias Betty isn't cutting edge or particularly original but it is so well directed, acted and edited that it will have you hooked from beginning to end.
The transfer is 1.66:1 and is in fitted for 16 x 9 anamorphic. Most of the film is shot in what seems to be natural lighting and the colors are often muted. The transfer also shows some specks and grain.
The DVD is presented in Dolby digital 5.1 and sounds very good. Film is mainly dialogue driven with some music here and there. The Dolby is not essential.
There is a good making-of-featurette that lasts about 25 minutes and has interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. There are also Filmographies and a French film trailer gallery with close to 10 trailers.
Alias Betty was the best under-seen film of last year. A French thriller-drama based on a Ruth Rendell novel it deals with a series of unstable characters all drawn together by a crime of chance. Wellspring has done a fine job in presenting the DVD with very good sound and picture along with one good extra.