Philip Saville's Metroland begins as a rather formulaic midlife crisis film. Our hero Chris (Christian Bale), a former '60s radical and aspiring artist, is unexpectedly reunited with his world-traveling buddy Toni (Lee Ross.) It's been nine years since the two were together and in the intervening years much has changed. Toni has clung to his youthful attitudes towards life and spends his time partying and drinking. Chris on the other hand has settled down in Metroland where he and his wife Marion (Emily Watson) have a small home, modest jobs and three children. Of course Toni is shocked to learn that Chris has become the very thing that they rebelled against so many years ago and sets out to shake his friend free of sedate Metroland existence.
Toni works his subversion by recounting stories of their wild youth and taking Chris out to nightspots. It isn't long before Chris begins to reevaluate his lifestyle and question the value of career and family. The film's narrative flashes back and forth between the '60s and '70s in predictable fashion slowly building the story of how these two men arrived where they are today. Unfortunately most of the performances in the first half of the film are very flat and unengaging. The actors seem to be struggling with a low key and predictable script. Things pick up dramatically when Chris' former girlfriend Annick (Elsa Zylberstein) enters the picture. Her performance is captivating and rich, perhaps the most fully rendered of the entire cast. Zylberstein gives us a reason to empathize with Chris' self doubt by presenting a compelling alternative to his current life.
The final quarter of the film takes a few unexpected twists and turns and the cast seems generally more energized as the climax approaches. The end of the film is about what you'd expect but seems to work none the less. In sum the movie is satisfying 30-something fluff with a few flashes of brilliance, particularly Zylberstein without whose performance Metroland would have been mediocre at best.
Metroland is presented in 1.33:1 pan and scan which is strange given Universal's excellent DVD track record. This isn't an action picture and the cinematography lends itself to full screen format but I would like to have seen it in its original aspect ratio none the less. The transfer itself is nicely done. The film elements are pristine and free from noticeable grain. Color saturation is right on the money and contrast, black level and shadow detail are all exemplary.
Dolby 2.0 surround (AC-3) track is passable. There are a handful of ambient effects and the music lofts pleasantly around the soundfield. This is a dialogue driven film and most of the sounds are firmly anchored on the center channel. The voices are crisp and clear with no distortion and never get lost under the musical score.
The only extra content on this disc is the theatrical trailer.
Metroland is a low-key movie that presents only the rarest of challenges to the viewer. Many people may find it too predictable but I enjoyed it enough to watch the disc twice in one week. Age is probably a prime factor in your potential enjoyment of the movie. It's clearly targeted at the 35 to 45 year old demographic.