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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Thomas In Love
Thomas In Love
Seville Pictures // Unrated
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Videoflicks]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted April 21, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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I hate the terribly clichéd expression "don't judge a book by its cover". There has to be some criteria by which to determine whether or not material warrants a purchase, and a book's cover would seem to be a natural enough starting point. With tens of thousands of DVDs beckoning me, I employ a variety of methods to separate the wheat from the chaff, or whatever goofy phrase I'd use to counter. Take the title, for instance. Thomas In Love is the sort of movie I'd typically shy away from based on its title alone. Sure, there are a few similarly titled films that have touched my heart. Problem Child 3: Junior In Love and Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds In Love come to mind, but those, friends, are the exception. "In love" brings to mind 110 minutes of celluloid drenched with sappy manipulation, running through the same well-tread formula for the 86 quadrillionth time, and not in the charming Friday the 13th way either. I don't have any interest in taking a peek at a young woman's journey to self-discovery, barring any nudity aside from Gwyneth Paltrow baring her well-chewed-bubblegum-esque chest. I took a chance on Thomas In Love, though, and this is a film that's not conventional by any stretch of the imagination.

Thomas In Love is about a computer-obsessed shut-in. Now this is a film to which I can greatly relate. Though I prefer to waste away the hours penning crudely-written reviews with pointless, unnecessarily long introductions, Thomas' activities are a little more...interesting. Offhand, I can't think of any other films where the audience is denied the opportunity to see the protagonist. Thomas In Love takes place entirely from the perspective of, not surprisingly, Thomas, an agoraphobe who hasn't stepped outside in eight years. Even the sight of home movies of him being outside sends Thomas into seizures. His communication with the outside world is entirely handled via computer and the use of a Jetsons-style device called a Visiophone. Thomas has paid an insurance company to take care of him, and both his agent and his psychologist make arrangements for Thomas to be introduced to women in the hopes of helping him along. One is Eva, a prostitute for the disabled who would just as soon not have any contact with Thomas and desires a line of work less demanding on her body. The other is Melody, an artistic soul who's a bit shy about engaging in the sort of long-distance sexual exploits that Thomas craves. Thomas is torn between his desire for companionship and his crippling inability to leave the confines of his apartment.

I rarely have the opportunity to say that a movie is truly unique, but Thomas In Love fits the bill by any conceivable definition. Even though Thomas cannot be seen, he is present in every moment of the film. The audience is never given the opportunity to see Thomas' face, yet through his many conversations, a strong character is developed. At the same time, there is quite a bit of ambiguity surrounding him, totally separate from his physical appearance and keeping Thomas In Love, for the most part, unpredictable. I was never sure what to expect next from the title character, who evokes sympathy due to his plight, yet alternates between being standoffish and rude to teetering on the brink of terror. The acting is excellent from everyone involved, especially the disembodied voice of Benoît Verhaert. Their success can in large part be attributed to the efforts of director Pierre-Paul Renders to duplicate the isolation and claustrophobic settings as closely as possible. My only quibble is that Thomas In Love appears to be extended a little further than it probably should have. It would make an engaging short film if trimmed down to an hour or so. My interest started to wane around the halfway mark, and though some of the events that occurred in the last act were rejuvenating, I cannot shake the feeling that Thomas In Love would have benefited greatly from some tightening.

Practically unseen in the United States, Thomas In Love has been given a very respectable treatment on DVD courtesy of the Canadian-based Séville Films.

Video: Séville has presented Thomas In Love in anamorphic widescreen at its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The movie was shot digitally on a variety of equipment, with each user's Visiophone represented by a different quality image. The variations aren't limited to just clarity, as even dropouts and other flaws associated with digital transmission have been lovingly duplicated. This contributes greatly to Thomas In Love's stylized appearance, bolstered further by its inventive use of color. A couple of specks are present, which would seem to indicate that this is sourced from film elements rather than a direct digital transfer. For all intents and purposes, this presentation of Thomas In Love is flawless, in keeping with Séville's generally excellent output.

Audio: Thomas In Love sports a French stereo track, with optional English subtitles. The film is driven almost entirely by dialogue, so much of the audio naturally is anchored front and center. Surrounds roar to live during the Sextoon sequences but otherwise remain largely silent. The fidelity of the dialogue varies, depending on the user on the other end of the Visiophone. This isn't a bombastic mix, but it suits the movie perfectly.

Supplements: There are two featurettes on Séville's DVD release of Thomas In Love. The first is a standard documentary titled "The Making Of Thomas In Love" that is far more detailed than the majority of the insubstantial American featurettes that litter DVDs nowadays. The 20-minute featurette is very technical in nature, spending quite a bit of time discussing the origins of the project and how the movie was shot and assembled. The second and much shorter featurette, running around three and a half minutes, takes a look at how the 'Clara' figure from the Sextoon animations was created. Finally, there is a letterboxed theatrical trailer. All of the supplemental material is in French and features burnt-in English subtitles.

Conclusion: The two-word 'rent it' summary can be construed in one of several different ways. The first has that droll "if you have to see it..." connotation. I'm sure that you know what I mean. Upon reading the final paragraph of a review, you can almost hear the sigh of some hopelessly-indie record store clerk as you plunk down $17 and an Alanis Morrissette CD on the counter. Hopefully that's the sort of embarrassment most of my beloved readers have been spared. No, not the condescending sigh -- buying an Alanis Morrissette CD. A second way is a genuine recommendation to trot over to Hollywood Video and pick up a title, and that is my intent with Thomas In Love. The DVD is well-produced, and the film itself is solid...for a single viewing, anyway. I have enough DVDs in my collection to know when I'll file away a movie and never watch it again, and that distinct sensation coursed through my body after I'd finished delving through this disc. I enjoyed Thomas In Love quite a bit, but a single viewing was enough for me. Pierre-Paul Renders even states in one of the featurettes that his initial impression was that Thomas In Love was better suited to a short film than a feature. Thomas In Love doesn't feel padded to reach a certain length, but I don't think I'd enjoy sitting through it again. The fact that this DVD is currently unavailable in the United States will certainly complicate the rental process for quite a number of readers, but that's my recommendation and I'm sticking with it. Thomas In Love can be purchased from a variety of Canadian retailers for around twenty bucks USD, and it may be worth considering adding to an order of one of Séville's many fine DVDs that have yet be to be released in the 'States.
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