It is 1907. Musicology professor Lily Penleric (Janet McTeer), unjustly passed over forpromotion, leaves the city to stay with her schoolteacher sister in the Appalachians. There sheexperiences revelations of various kinds. She discovers traditional Irish and Scottish ballads,altered but recognizable, still living vibrant folk lives. She also finds her superior, urban anduptight attitudes slowly but surely demolished by the people around her. The most importantperson she me…ts is musician Aidan Quinn, with whom she falls in love. The film is strongest inits exploration of the music, which overcomes the sometimes melodramatic script.
As you can imagine, a film with music at its heart depends heavily on the quality of thesound, and I’m happy to report that the results here are perfectly satisfactory. The music comesthrough with crystalline clarity. This is not big surround music, of course – most of the singersare accompanied by one instrument at most. Still, the background music is rich and full, and thesound effects are also given a nice, often quite subtle, surround effect (a bit of business with afly is particularly good).
The widescreen aspect of the film is preserved (or at least as far as being in 1.78:1), and thetransfer looks very good. The colours are rich and full (if maybe slightly dark), the definition iscrisp, the blacks strong, and there is no artifacting or image enhancement flaws (though there isthe occasional speckle). The video is a nice match to the delicate sound. A good job allaround.
The menu (which has a musical notation motif) is silent and still, but the features are quitegenerous. Writer/director Maggie Greenwald and her husband, composer David Mansfield,provide a the commentary. There are significant pauses in the discussion – some are so long, infact, that when at first I thought I hadn’t successfully launched the commentary. On the otherhand, the comments are very interesting. They are not hugely technical. Instead, they focus on theimportance of the music, and demonstrate how the plot of the film was structured boththematically and narratively around the song “Barbara Allen.”
As well, there are three extended scenes, where you can see three musical numbersperformed in their entirety. You also have the option of playing the film with only the musictrack playing (voilà – instant soundtrack). There are short interviews with Aidan Quinn, MaggieGreenwald, David Mansfield, Janet McTeer and Dolly Parton. These pieces, which I believe arethe featurette mentioned on the box, are a bit choppy. There is a sense of cutting into theinterviews in mid-stream.
A prizewinner at the Sundance Film Festival, this is the work of filmmakers committed to avery precise idea, and they work it through nicely. This release not only gives us the film in anice presentation, but it is also a not-half-bad educational package.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Cast and Crew Interviews
- Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
- Extended Scenes
- Music-Only Track