Movie: Coming of age movies have the potential to show us where we've been, where we are, and where we're going if done right. It doesn't matter about the specifics so much if the overall theme is handled correctly, be it a boy growing into a man, a girl into a woman, or a selfish jerk growing into a worldly citizen. In the bigger scheme of things, we all grow up at some point in our lives and this type of movie, when done well, resonates with us at some fundamental level. In the latest such movie, a low budget release from France, My Life On Ice, we get to see the world through the eyes of a 16 year old boy, Etienne (Jimmy Tavares), who is in the throes of self discovery, an uncomfortable process at best for him.
Young Etienne turns 16 and his lonely mother gets him a videocamera for his birthday. He uses it more and more to look at life from a different perspective, while at the same time distancing himself from the world he so seeks to become a part of. He does this wherever he goes and soon enough, his mother is yelling at him to stop, put it away and live life a little. The problem is that his new hobby allows him to explore a world that he's curious about but not quite ready to accept, the possibility that he's homosexual. His fellow ice skaters put up with his antics, as do most of his friends and teachers, thinking nothing of it and the freedom he feels while taking long, lingering looks at those he is physically attracted to, encourage him to continue down a path he might have otherwise repressed, as so many do in various cultures. Is he really gay or is he just curious about life become side issues in his limited world of observing as an outside recorder of life rather than participant.
The themes are universal and you shouldn't focus too much on the sexuality issue since nothing much openly happens in regards to it. Those of you who are homophobic or worried that you may see something offensive won't have to concern yourselves since this isn't that type of movie. While the movie does rely too heavily on the gimmick of the world-view through videocamera, with all the jerky angles and editing that came with it, there was a method to the madness that succeeded more often than not. The acting by most of the principle characters was reasonably good or better, the direction pretty good, and the slice of life style worth checking out. Don't expect any answers to the questions the movies raises, that's shown to be up to you to figure out as much as it was for Etienne, but it'll help you frame the questions, regardless of your own sexual preferences. I'm rating it as a Rent It since it will appeal mostly to those who enjoy foreign cinema, independent films, and risk-taking in the process.
Picture: The picture was presented in the originally shot 1.33:1 ratio full frame color. There was some grain and minor video noise but nothing major with regard to the visual quality of the movie. The biggest problem for me was the way the movie was shot in a point of view fashion, as though the lead were shooting it. I know this was the gimmick driving the movie but it still bothered me much of the time (and the editing was purposefully done to enhance this home movie look. I didn't notice any compression artifacts or edge enhancement but the picture wasn't going to sell me on this one.
Sound: The audio was presented in the original 5.1 Dolby Digital surround French with optional English subtitles. There wasn't a lot of separation on the soundtrack (although the commentary track had one guy on each side-almost like you're sandwiched between them) but it was clear enough to hear what the characters were saying.
Extras: The best extra was the audio commentary, in English, with the co-writer, co-directors, Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau. The duo gave a number of insights into the project and explained what they were trying to do in several instances of questionable merit. Whether or not you like what they did, at least they explained why they did things that might otherwise be thought of as a mistake. The other extras were a trailer to the movie, some filmographies, biographies and usual web links on the DVD.
Final Thoughts: I actually liked this one way more than I thought I would after the first ten minutes. It quickly convinced me that it had some real merit, for all the quirky methods used by the two directors. I don't think it had much replay value simply because the gimmick used to record the movie was so irritating but I'd suggest you check it out if you get a chance.