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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » This Is Not A Love Song
This Is Not A Love Song
Wellspring // Unrated // August 12, 2003
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Matthew Millheiser | posted August 20, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

This Is Not A Love Song... no kidding! What This... is is a tight little thriller set in the Yorkshire hills. The story begins with a character named Heaton (Kenneth Glenaan) picking up his friend Spike (Michael Colgan) on the day of Spike's release from prison. When their stolen truck runs out of gas, Heaton attempts to procure (read: steal) fuel from a local farmhouse. Heaton is caught by the shotgun-wielding owner of the house, who locks him in a barn while attempting to call the police. Unfortunately, Spike shows up and gains control of the shotgun, and shortly thereafter an innocent person lies dead from Spike's accidental shotgun blast. Spike and Heaton take to the hills, while a vigilante mob led by enraged locals relentlessly pursue them.

While Heaton is the calmer, more rational of the two, Spike is nothing less than sheer impulse and short-term attention span, a poster-child for Ritalin if there ever was one. He rambles endlessly and excitedly, spouting his lines with little to no regulation between the brain and the mouth. His walk, his demeanor, his entire presentation aptly shows off his likable if rambling mental state. Michael Colgan delivers a fantastic performance, as it wisely avoids devolving into caricature, making Spike a visibly unstable but also sympathetic character. Kenneth Glanaan, John Henshaw, and David Bradley (Mr. Filch from the Harry Potter films) all deliver strong and believable performances in their respective roles. Bradley is more frightening and chilling here than he has ever been as Argus Filch! Credit must also be given to screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (writer of The Full Monty) and director Bille Eltringham for creating a crackerjack piece of cinema which, even when taking its time to develop its characters and situations, still moves at a lightning pace.

The film is a fine example of what a small budget and lean, accomplished filmmaking can accomplish, and if This Is Not A Love Song is not a perfect movie it remains a taught and enjoyable 90 minutes of well-crafted independent cinema. There is a certain renegade spirit to the movie, as if it revels in its liberation from the constraining elements of big-budget studio "guidance", which gives the film a wilder and more unpredictable feel.

The DVD

Video:
This Is Not A Love Song
was shot on digital video and transferred to 35mm for exhibition. The resulting video quality on the DVD retains some of the video's stronger elements but also its detractions as well -- a mixed presentation. The video is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and is anamorphically enhanced for your widescreen viewing elation. From the opening shot, the limitations of video are immediately inherent. The picture is loaded with artifacts, with noticeable amounts of shimmering, jagged edges, and compression noise. The video source provided an image with fantastic contrast levels, giving the picture incredible depth and richness. Colors are extremely vivid and incredibly well rendered. From the deep, lush greens of the hillside to the sharp and vibrant fluorescents of some of the more abstract scenes, the color levels on this disc are fantastic. Blacks are deep and incredibly rich, with fine levels of shadow delineation. Edge-enhancement is extremely noticeable throughout, with ringing around light sources and shifting around hard edges. Sharpness levels are decent overall; in many instances, image detail could have been sharper, but there was no prevailing softness to the image.

Audio:
This Is Not A Love Song
provides two English language presentations: one in Dolby Digital 5.1 and the other in 2.0. As an aside, no matter which one you listen to, if you live "across the pond" you'll definitely want to use the available English subtitles. These are some seriously thick accents. In any case, the 5.1 soundtrack is definitely the more winning of the two. The film's pounding alt-rock soundtrack sounds particular efficacious, with broad fidelity and a strong, wonderfully booming use of the LFE channels. There is active and aggressive use of the surround channels, opening up the stage to provide an open and engaging field of sound. Dialog is bright and well delivered, but again, use those English subtitles if you are not a native.

Extras:
The highlight of the extras is a fantastic 26-minute Making Of feature. This documentary was filmed before, during, and after the filming of This Is Not A Love Song, making this one of the most well documented making-of feature I've encountered. It really delves into the "guts" of how this film came about. The entire cast and crew lends their thoughts about the project from every detail. Director Bille Eltringham discusses the problems inherent with big-budget filmmaking. Paul Trijbits, the head of the New Cinema Fund Flim Council also shares his views on the film's genesis. Casting Director Victoria Beattie talks about the process of casting Spike and Heaton, and excerpts from the audition tapes for both Michael Colgan and Kenneth Glanaan are included. I was especially interested in how the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease disabled access to areas of the English countryside. This is a great feature, and one of the best making-of documentaries I have ever seen. I only wish that it ran even longer!

The Filmography section contains biographical information for director Belle Eltringham, screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, and actor David Bradley. There are Weblinks for the London Film Festival interview with the director, a Film Four interview with the director and writer, the film's web site, and Wellspring's web site. From the Main Menu, you can access Previews for other Wellspring offerings, including Beware of a Holy Whore, The Convent, and Ran. If you select the Wellspring logo, you can also view the DVD Production Credits.  

Final Thoughts

This Is Not A Love Song takes its title from a great PiL tune, and while I find it difficult to see its relevance to this picture, the movie is nonetheless a generally enjoyable 90-minutes of thrilling cinema. Everything is in top form here; the acting is superb all around, the direction is tight, the script is smart and the cinematography is beautiful. I suppose you could compare the movie to 28 Days Later or The Blair Witch Project, the former for its maverick digital video style and the latter for its handheld camera-shot immediacy. This Is Not A Love Song is really not like either film, but they are cinematic cousins in many ways, and if anything it once again proves the notion that big budget, major studio-guided filmmaking is not necessary to create a thrilling, smart motion picture.

I had some issues with the quality of the video on this release. I think a little more refinement of the transfer would have made a world of difference in the overall presentation of the film. Nonetheless, it certainly isn't terrible and sports a beautiful, lively palette. The strong audio content and the fine documentary certainly make up for it. I recommend This Is Not A Love Song both as a film and as DVD, and look forward to seeing further work from this crew.

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