WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
New Waterford Girl is a surprisingly touching and poignant film about an unlikely friendship that develops between two very different teenage girls. This is a quiet and introspective film full of subtle humor and engagingly human personalities.
Mooney (Liane Balaban, who might be Natalie Portman's long-lost twin sister) is an introverted and imaginative 15-year-old girl who longs to escape her dead-end small Canadian town of 1970s New Waterford. She feels trapped by her family and setting, to the point that she feels emotionally and intellectually stunted. She sulks around town, stooped like a typical disengaged teenager, reading and pouting, cloaked in a stretched black sweater and long skirt. When an art school in New York offers Mooney a scholarship, she brightens up, but when her parents refuse to let her leave, Mooney spirals into desperation. In tandem with Mooney's quest for escape is the arrival in town of a Bronx girl named Lou (Tara Spencer-Nairn), who has a mysterious past involving a jailed prizefighter dad. The two girls form a unique bond, Lou showing Mooney how to have a good time and how to make the most of her alienation from the rest of the town, and Mooney giving the worldly Lou a small-town perspective on life.
New Waterford Girl is directed by Allan Moyle, who also brought us Pump Up the Volume, and although I can see thematic parallels between the two films, this one feels more like the small, tender effort of a first-time filmmaker—and I mean that in a good way. This is a film about human beings, about their foibles and their inner fortunes, about their mistakes and about their huge capacity for both stupidity and love.
Balaban is a revelation as an actress, truly inhabiting the character of Mooney. After finishing the film, I immediately went to the Internet Movie Database to find other efforts in which she's appeared. I suggest you do the same, and keep an eye on this young woman's career.
HOW'S IT LOOK?
Wellspring presents New Waterford Girl in a non-anamorphic transfer of its original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The image is murky, dark, and pale. The subdued color palette has a washed-out look, and I don't believe it's intended. The worst crime in this image, however, is a very high degree of digital artifacting, giving the picture an ever-present and annoying shift, particularly in backgrounds. The source print is also fairly dirty, showing dirt and specks throughout. Detail, in general, is wanting. Too bad, because this film deserves better.
HOW'S IT SOUND?
The disc's Dolby Digital 5.1 track is impressive—far more impressive than its video presentation. Music envelopment accounts for the majority of the surround activity. One fault with the soundtrack is that dialog and voiceovers are sometimes lost underneath the incidental sound or music. In general, sound levels seem to be off.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
The disc contains one supplement worth mentioning. The featurette imaginatively titled Featurette contains interviews with key cast and crew, spliced with scenes from the film. The participants appear to be on the set during the making of the movie. The actors have interesting tidbits to share about their characters and their motivations, and the director and screenwriter offer wisdom about the creation of the script and the film.
You also get a full-frame theatrical trailer and a series of filmographies.
WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?
New Waterford Girl is a film that's very much worth your time. This DVD presentation leaves much to be desired, but it's probably the best we'll ever see. Give it at least a rental.