This film is like the Ice Storm in warmer weather. Another portrait of burgeoning suburbia in the 1970s as an island from the rest of civilization instead of an off-shoot. Two families, who are long time friends, coworkers, neighbours and sometime secret lovers, are going through major changes as the children are just about grown, and the parents are falling apart to affairs, tensions and the appearance of Lyme disease in one household.
What begins as a quaint tale revolving largely around a 15-year-old named Scott and his viewpoint of the strangeness around him turns into a vision of living decay. At first we are charmed by eccentric characters who insist on wearing duck tape around their cuffs to avoid ticks and are quick to smile at each other, turns dark before the midpoint of the film and their downward spiral into unhappiness never ceases for the remainder of the film. I am all too aware of what screenwriters call the “dark moment” in most all formal screenplays, which arrives about ¾ of the way through the film and creates the biggest moment of tension or danger before being resolved in the climax (a nice little trivia tidbit for all you film fans and new writers out there). Lymelife’s dark moment does not arrive suddenly but seems to seep in like a fog very early on and only ever darkens. Much of this darkness resides in the characters themselves as their seems to be an edge to all of them that is revealed as time passes. This makes the film not the most terribly enjoyable as one loses that little bit of hope that the film needs to truly thrive. Things only worsen at the very end of the film where a high pitched note follows around the character who is suffering from Lyme disease, which becomes all the more ominous as he begins to wield his gun around (which was introduced at the very beginning of the film).
Other coming of age stories, such as The Squid and the Whale, are not exactly upbeat but are superior in story-telling to Lymelife for their characters actually have an arc. The only characters who seem to really turn their lives around in Lymelife, mainly Alec Baldwin’s, have this revelation spoiled in the final seconds. Bleakness and decay reign supreme in the end.
What the film lacks in cheerfulness it almost makes up in very fine and honest performances. Although Emma Roberts is a tad clumsy here and there in her role as the object of affection to young Scott, the rest of the leading cast is quite good throughout. As bleak as the material is, the actors make you believe it. At first these performances enhance the film, later they are the lifeline to which it (and the audience) cling to.
Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40. A pretty clean picture but the blacks could be sharper. There are a lot of colours that look very nice. Casting Cynthia Nixon means you will often have a very nice, vibrant red or orange (maybe blonde) colour to base off of.
Option of Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 or Dolby 2.0 Stereo. The dialogue is clean, the music is well-dispersed to all of the speakers and all in all things are sounding good.
Subtitles Available in Spanish
Deleted Scenes: Eight scenes that are largely just conversations between the characters that have been understandably shaved off for they tell us things we already know that are not crucial to the story.
Alternate Ending: Confirmation of what most people will suspect happened at the end of the film. It is only “alternate” because we get to see the result of the gun going off at the end of the original. It also confirms the lack of hope I have spoken so much about in this review.
Commentary: Done by Director and Co-Writer Derek Martini and star Rory Culkin. It’s the sort of commentary where the commentators are mainly just watching the film for their own pleasure and giving very little insight. Martini offers the standard tidbits here and there but Rory really has nothing useful to say.
Lymelife and its “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here” approach makes Derek Martini seem like he is trying to paint suburban life as a layer of Dante’s Hell. A special realm of suffering for those who live in denial and thrive on lying to others. The aforementioned ominous promise of tragedy at the end only worsens things. Re-watching the first half, it seems like quite the nice film with some great moments of emotional honestly…but I cannot get past that upset feeling the last half gives me. Leonard Cohen famously sang “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” All of the cracks seemed to be stuccod in this film after the 40 minute mark.
Perhaps, instead of further ramming home that this film is a downer, I shall end on a nitpick note. This film, according to the commentary, takes place in 1979 and yet makes reference to Lando Calrissian, a character introduced in The Empire Strikes Back (Star Wars Sequel in 1980). It’s a close bit of trivia but still inaccurate. They try to explain the Falklin Islands reference (also early 80s) but not this one. Tisk, tisk Mr. Martini.