20th Century Women Blu-ray Review

20th Century Women

Ralph Potts reviews this true-to-life story inspired by acclaimed writer/director Mike Mills’ life, which serves as a cinematic love letter to the people who raise us and the times that shape us.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )



Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )



Studio and Year: Lionsgate – 2016
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 118 minutes
Genre: Drama

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC
Video Aspect: 2.00:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Starring: Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, Elle Fanning, Lucas Jade Zumann
Written & Directed by: Mike Mills
Music by: Roger Neill
Region Code: A

Release Date: March 28, 2017

“My Mother Before Me”

My Take:

Set in 1979 Santa Barbara, 20th Century Women follows Dorothea (Bening), a determined single mother in her mid-50s who is raising her adolescent son, Jamie (Zumann), at a time brimming with cultural change. Struggling to find common ground with Jamie, Dorothea enlists the help of two younger women — Abbie (Gerwig), a punk artist boarding in Fields’s home, Julie (Elle Fanning), a slightly older, and savvy teenage neighbor, to help broaden his horizons. Along with William (Crudup), a bohemian handyman who rooms in Dorothea’s house, they form a makeshift family that inspires them for the rest of their lives.

20th Century Women is a period drama that brims with cultural, political and socio themes. Writer/Director Mike Mills certainly captures the essence of that very specific time when the seventies were coming to an end and the 1980’s waiting to usher in what felt like something completely different. The character of Jamie was born the same year I was, and I couldn’t help but identify with some of the story’s elements. At that age, I grew up in a home with a single mother and we struggled to find common ground. There were people that came in and out of my life, much in the way depicted in the film, although not in the same way.

I really liked the concept of this film, and could see that it was a personal portrait of the journey of mother and son, set to a slice of life, coming of age narrative. Unfortunately, I found the characters difficult to connect with, and in some cases, not altogether likeable. In a character-driven story, that proved problematic, as it shifted focus, in the hopes of finding an element to cling to. 20th Century Women isn’t a bad film. For me, it just drifted along, finding its way to the conclusion. I did enjoy the performances and appreciated the personal nature of its context. In the end, my reaction to it would best be described a lukewarm.

Replay Value:

Parental Guide:

The rating is for sexual material, language, some nudity, teen smoking, and brief drug use.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

Audio: 80
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics:
  • Low frequency effects:
  • Surround Sound presentation:
  • Clarity/Detail:
  • Dialog Reproduction:
  • DSU Rating * (non-rated element): NA

Video: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity:
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail:
  • Color Reproduction:
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression:

20th Century Women comes to Blu-ray Disc from Lionsgate Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 34 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 2.8 Mbps.

This is pleasing video presentation that boasts plenty of refinement, stable contrast, vivid colors, and strong dimension. Blacks are punchy and stand out when onscreen with mixed content. Visual perspective in low lighting and darkened areas is estimable. The combination gives dark scenes appreciable depth. Images are film like, and perfectly suited for the source material.

The lossless DTS-HD MA soundtrack has good dynamic range, detail rich clarity and discernible channel separation which enable the detection of subtle nuance within the recording. Dialogue is firmly planted in the center channel which clearly renders voices and effects with appropriate distinction and tonal balance within the front soundstage. Low frequency effects aren’t noteworthy but the subwoofer works in tandem with the rest of the system to appropriately convey the bass associated with the soundtrack.

Bonus Features:

  • (HD) Making 20th Century Women – 9 minute featurette
  • (HD) 20th Century Women Cast – 10 minute featurette
  • Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Mike Mills
  • Digital HD Copy

Final Thoughts:

20th Century Women is a true-to-life drama inspired by writer/director Mike Mills’ life, which serves as a cinematic love letter to the people who raise us and the times that shape us. It’s a conceptually strong, character driven film that unfortunately didn’t resonate with me, or my wife. It comes to Blu-ray from Lionsgate Home Entertainment featuring solid technical merits mated with a light supplemental package that includes insights from the cast/crew and a glimpse behind the scenes. 20th Century Women wasn’t my cup of tea, but genre fans may find it enjoyable. If you’re curious, drop it in your rental queue and give it a spin on Blu-ray.

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV8802A 13.2 Channel Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies – 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
SVS PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
SVS SB-13 Ultra (Piano Gloss finish)
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components – CP-CP102 cooling package