Burned out actor Howard Spense (Sam Shepard) has a mid-life crisis, rides off the set of his latest western, and visits his mother (Eva Marie Saint), whom he has not seen in over 30 years. Mother Spense informs Howard that he has a son named Earl, (Gabriel Mann) living in Butte, Montana from a fling he had with Doreen (Jessica Lange), while he was there shooting on location 20 years ago. Upon arriving in Butte (he gravitates there more than actually arriving), Howard also meets Sky (Sarah Polley), a mysterious woman …ho is carrying the ashes of her mother in an urn. She may also be his daughter.
If this sounds like a Lifetime made-for-TV-movie-of-the-week, then you wouldn’t be far off. There are lots of angst-riddled father-son arguments and tearful reunions. But director Wim Wenders and cinematographer Franz Lustig inject the film with a minor art-house vibe and some major western landscapes, elevating the film into something more relevant than a generic film found on the “men are evil” Lifetime network. Wenders also supplies the film with an excellent alt-country soundtrack (courtesy of T-Bone Burnett) that adds an emotional punch that is sorely lacking on-screen.
The problem, however, is that the film borders both seriousness and eccentricity, and as a result, Don’t Come Knocking never finds its voice and ultimately comes across as a meandering tale with nothing profound to say or do. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t powerful scenes, beautiful images and emotional tunes contained within the film, but the end result lacks substantial impact. The parts to this film are definitely better than the whole.
Don’t Come Knocking is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture is nearly flawless, and as beautiful as the many western landscapes featured. Colors are sun-drenched, bright and rich. There is also little to no grain in darker scenes, resulting in a near-perfect picture.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack supplied on Don’t Come Knocking doesn’t have much to do, but when it does, it doesn’t waste an opportunity to show off. Trains, horse hoofs, and the alt-country music kick the soundtrack up a notch or two, but the film is primarily dialogue driven. However, the dialogue is always crystal clear.
Director Commentary by Wim Wenders – Wenders gives an informative, yet bland, commentary. He muses on his relationship with Sam Shepard, whom he collaborated with on Paris, Texas as well as Butte, Montana, which is where the film is mostly shot. Wenders also confesses that Butte is his favorite place in America. Wenders also informs the viewer about the final shot of the film, which was added simply to take advantage of a certain road sign on a desert highway.
New York Premiere – this featurette covers the debut of this film in New York City. It’s filled with interviews and discussions on the film.
Sundance Featurette – similar to the New York debut featurette, this one follows Wenders around Sundance, which he says is the perfect match for Don’t Come Knocking, a film set in the American west.
Interview with Wim Wenders and Eva Marie Saint – a short, yet odd media interview with the director and actress about how actors differentiate between the people they play on-screen and their personal lives.
Previews – trailers for Friends With Money, L’Enfant, and Quinceañera
Note – even though some production notes make reference to deleted scenes, there are none to be found on the disc.
Despite an excellent A/V transfer, Don’t Come Knocking will likely only appeal to fans of Wim Wenders. The film’s meandering plot and characters definitely aren’t mainstream, but the scenery and music are beautiful, and should appeal to just about anyone.
Even though there are a decent amount of extras on the disc, they are mostly filler (outside of the commentary) and offer little to the viewer looking to learn more about the film. However, there are some pleasant surprises to be found within the film and on the disc, so it’s not a waste of time by any means.
Special Features List
- Director Commentary with Wim Wenders
- New York Premiere Featurette
- Sundance Featurette
- Interview with Wim Wenders and Eva Marie Saint