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Saturday, November 16, 2013

DVD Review: All Is Bright

All Is Bright is such an interesting and unusual film, unusual in its pacing, its subject, its characters. It’s thoughtful and funny and even heartbreaking at times, and it features excellent performances by Paul Giamatti, Paul Rudd, and Sally Hawkins.

All Is Bright begins with Dennis (Paul Giamatti) walking into town after having been paroled (no one has cared enough to pick him up). He stops to sleep in a church, and for that shot the film’s score stops, as if to let him sleep. He reaches his destination at night, and there is an excellent shot where he sees his daughter through the window, then turns to the next window. As the camera pans over, we see a woman standing there, already aware of his presence (and none too happy about it). It’s a really nice shot, and the rest of the scene is just as strong. He’s about to knock, but she stops him by raising one finger. The film is silent at this point. She writes a note, and holds it up to the window: “I told her you were dead.”

She has him wait until their daughter is asleep and then comes out to him. She tells him he’s been dead for more than a year. It also comes out that she has been dating his friend, Rene, and is planning on marrying him. When he tells her he’ll stop being a thief for her, she responds, “What would be left of you?” And when he asks how he died, she says: “Cancer... You suffered. A lot.”

What a scene. It’s totally sad, intense, and funny in a deliciously screwed up way. And it establishes the character of Dennis so quickly and so firmly. Paul Giamatti has a way about him that makes you immediately empathize with whatever character he’s playing. You want things to turn out well for him, but for some reason it’s always so enjoyable to watch as things go wrong for him.

And things certainly go wrong for him in All Is Bright. When he learns there are no jobs to be had in his Canadian town, Dennis is forced to turn to Rene (Paul Rudd) for work, and Rene agrees to take him with him to sell Christmas trees in New York.

They set up shop on a street corner in New York, essentially living in the truck while they attempt to sell all of the trees they’ve brought. Dennis has to put up with the cold, with lack of sales, and with his wife calling his friend. He’s a man at the bottom who is trying to get back on track.

Helping him is Olga, played by Sally Hawkins. She is particularly wonderful in this film as a woman who works for rich dentists and befriends Dennis after purchasing a tree. Paul Rudd is quite good too, keeping Rene from being an obvious villain character. After all, we are set up to dislike his character, and yet he does make us feel for him. And we do see the friendship between him and Dennis. And it is partly their relationship that really draws us into this film.

The DVD contains no special features.

All Is Bright is scheduled to be released on DVD and Blu-ray on November 19, 2013 through Anchor Bay.

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