The Republic of Love
Film Movement // Unrated // $29.99 // July 21, 2004
Review by Don Houston | posted October 31, 2004
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Movie: Movies about modern love often, if not usually, fall into the trap of popularism. By that, I mean that they seek the largest audience and therefore seem to be designed for the lowest common denominator, lest they alienate some of the box office cash their producers seem driven by. Ever since movies became a form of entertainment, and that precedes movies with audio tracks, the escapist fantasies of true, pure love have invaded the large screen. Suffice it to say, there are no shortages of such releases even today, making such movies the fodder for the night out, relegating them forever as "Date Movies" with nothing so offensive as to bother the couple and enough frothy fun to keep the audience from looking too critically at the content of the show. Luckily, recent years have seen the rise of the independent movie, released by smaller distributors who seek a smaller, more intimate audience, as a way of differentiating themselves from the Hollywood moguls that are purely profit driven. One of my favorite indie distributors is a company called Film Movement, a company that seeks out unique works from all over the world and sells the movies by subscription. Their latest release for review is a little title known as The Republic Of Love, a movie based on a story by award winning author, Carol Shields, about a couple of star crossed lovers that break all the stereotypes in a flavorful manner that I found most appealing.

The main male character is Tom Avery, a guy that has married (and divorced) three times in his life, due mostly to the way he falls in love at the drop of a hat. At 40 years old, he's on the rebound once again and looking for love in all the wrong places. His counterpoint is a gal named Faye, a researcher that has never truly left herself love someone due in part to the standards she sets for her mates. Her standards were set to the tune of her parents, a couple married happily for over 40 years, or so they seem. Every man Faye hooks up with falls short of this standard, thereby complicating her life no end.

The two meet at a children's Halloween party where mutual friends of theirs are attending. They immediately click together and after some rather stodgy symbolism, the couple fall madly and deeply in love, even though they're completely wrong for one another on the surface. The concept of the "geography of love" arises as do a number of other ways of looking at life, and it takes the death of a young friend to make the couple realize that love isn't about rules or formulas so much as a natural, and beautiful, thing to be enjoyed. Through various ups and downs, they learn to accept one another for what they are, not what they could be and director Deepa Mehta's vision of a complex version of life and love comes across as far more realistic and fulfilling than the sugarcoated romantic comedies so many seem to like.

I like Film Movement's releases so often that I'm about to subscribe myself, on my own dime, since they routinely present something a few notches above the regular independent film but still maintain the production values of much higher budgeted releases. They distribute labors of love more than product and that is why it should come as no surprise that I rated this one as Recommended. I think some of the symbolism was a bit too heavy handed and the writing (again, an adaptation of the book, not the book itself) seemed off at times. I also noticed that the DVD boxed listed that the movie was an adaptation of a Pulitzer-Prize winning novel when it was not (Carol Shields' other book earned one though). While an imperfect vision of love and romance, it rang true and gave this 40-something reviewer plenty to think about in his own social life. Check it out if you want to walk a bit off the beaten path, noting that you might find as much to like as I did.

Picture: The picture was presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.78:1, in anamorphic widescreen color. The colors were a bit muted but this appeared to be a directorial decision fitting the material better than the saccharine kaleidoscope such romantic drama/comedies are usually shown in. There were a few moments of pattern noise and the grain was minimal but overall, I thought the visual aspects of the movie were very fitting for the content.

Sound: The audio was presented in the usual 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround English with minimal separation between the channels and limited dynamic range in most areas of the show. The unusual music combined with some straightforward vocals to make for a decent audio experience but this was not the best aspect of the movie by any means. If you're looking for a showcase DVD to test the might of your speakers, this won't satisfy you but if you just want some decent sound, it fit the bill for the release quite well. Fans of the series will also know that Film Movement releases all have Closed Captions for the Hearing Impaired in English.

Extras: One of my favorite things about the Film Movement series is how they include a short film with each DVD release. This month, the short is called Persistence, a cute feature about an old man trying to escape from a nursing home for one last mission in his life, and perhaps the most important mission at that. The other extras included some trailers, a few biographies, a double sided DVD cover with interesting liner notes, and a link to the official website that had even more material on the show.

Final Thoughts: I liked, although didn't love, this movie about loving. The basic premise was sound but like any movie with a moral as a main point, it couldn't escape its limitations either. I still think the overall quality was good and the direction not as bad as I've heard mentioned but I hope future releases by Mr. Mehta show more subtlety in order to enhance the movie going experience for me.

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