The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Magnolia - 2008
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 90 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-25
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English & Spanish
Starring: Uma Thurman, Evan Rachel Wood, Eva Amurri, Oscar Isaac, Brett Cullen
Directed by: Vadim Perelman
Music by: James Horner
Written by: Emil Stern
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: August 19, 2008
"Diana's life is not what it seems"
Imaginative, impetuous and wild Diana (Evan Rachel Wood) can't wait for her adult life to begin. Diana tests her limits as her more conservative friend Maureen (Eva Amurri) watches with concern. But Diana's aura of invincibility is shattered when a moment of life and death decision-making forever changes the lives of the two best friends.
The life before her eyes is a psychological thriller based upon the novel by Laura Kisischke. It is about two teenage girls who are best friends until a tragic event shatters their lives. They are two very different people which is probably why they are drawn together. Diana is outgoing, impulsive and usually in trouble in school. Maureen is quiet, goes to church, doesn't have a boyfriend and is a responsible teenager. They are very close and tell each other everything that goes on in their lives. The film opens up with the two girls entering the bathroom at school. While they are in there they begin to hear screams and what sounds like gunfire coming from the hallway outside. Before they can do anything one of their classmates, Michael, enters the bathroom carrying an automatic weapon. He has just shot teaches and students alike and informs them that he is about to shoot ONE of them. The story jumps ahead 15 years after the incident and focuses on Diana who is now married and has a young daughter of her own named Emma. The remainder of the film is told through a series of flashbacks mixed with the present that shows Diana and Maureen back in the days prior to the shooting and Diana's current life with her family. She is haunted by the memories of that horrific day in the school bathroom and has nightmares about what happened. Throughout the movie that same scene is replayed and each time a little more information is revealed about its outcome and perhaps how it affected Diana in her adult life. Evan Rachel Wood is a fine actress and her portrayal of young Diana is solid. She first impressed me when she played Jesse on the ABC TV series Once and again. She has been in quite a few feature films since and I find her to be captivating onscreen. I respect Uma Thurman as an actress but thought that her performance was not particularly genuine in this film. Gabrielle Brennan who plays Diana's daughter is cute as a button but not nearly the actress that Dakota Fanning was at her age. Wood and Amurri, who portrayed Maureen, gave performances that really helped establish the credibility of their characters. The film moves in and out of time and drops subtle hints along the way about what is occurring and what has already occurred. Be sure to pay attention. When it was over and the truth about what happened was revealed I felt a bit disappointed. I felt that the film's explanation wasn't practical based upon some of the events that transpired. Up until that time I was chomping at the bit to see how it would turn out and why. I would say that everyone may have their own reaction/feelings about it and would be best served by seeing it for themselves.
Parental Guide:The rating is for violent and disturbing content, language, sexual references 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.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
The life before her eyes comes to Blu-ray Disc from Magnolia featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 24 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio that has an average bitrate of 3.6 mbps.
A variety of colors are effectively used in this film to help set the tone/setting based upon the mood of the scene and characters within it. The cinematography is beautiful. Colors can vary from being sullen and inanimate to breathtakingly vivid with warm vitality. Skin tones looked wonderful with natural tonality and descriptive variation. Images onscreen were exquisitely detailed and sharp with superb depth of field and visible structure. This was regardless of perspective. The video had solid contrast and deep blacks that provided excellent perceptibility during scenes shot at night or in lower lighting. The video had a clean, pristine quality that enhanced dimensionality and provided the looking through a window effect.
The lossless audio soundtrack delivered the goods as well. Dynamics were excellent which provided plenty of depth and audible texture to voices. Subtle background sounds such as the mist generated by a sprinkler, or leaves being rustled by a gentle breeze through the woods were clearly audible thanks to the tracks excellent clarity and detail. Being a film driven mostly by dialogue didn't afford this mix a lot of opportunities for active surround sound. Its use was primarily to create ambient environmental sounds and provide more envelopment for the music score. The subwoofer piped in low frequency effects to help add weight to the music and low end rumble during scenes like the gunfire sequence in the school. I thought the mix and sound quality were excellent.
The bonus supplements were above average and with the exception of the theatrical trailer were all in standard definition. It offered a 54 minute making of documentary that broke the production up into segments. It began with discussion of the story and then on to a script to screen description, followed by casting of the film etc. I thought that it was a good concept and that really went into great detail. The cast and crew were featured in extensive interview pieces which provided lots of insights, background and behind the scenes footage. In my opinion this was the best feature content wise. The Reflections documentary featured interviews of real people who have had near death experiences. It was on the bland side and seemed out of place to me. I had high hopes for the alternate ending but it didn't offer the answers I was looking for. I do think that it was better than the theatrical ending though. The deleted scenes, casting tape and photo galleries were okay but didn't add to the enjoyment of the film. The audio commentary was interesting and definitely worth checking out if you like the movie.
- Audio commentary with Director Vadim Perelman and Production Designer Maia Javan
- 5 Deleted scenes
- Alternate ending
- Eva Amurri casting tape
- Flower photo gallery
- Flower montage
- Flashback: Behind The life before her eyes
- Reflections back and beyond
- (HD) Theatrical Trailer
I was torn about how I should rate this film. I thought its visual style and telling was excellent but its ending didn't quite live up to the build up that preceded it. If the intention was to leave the ending on an ambiguous note I could live with that. I am not so sure that is the case. In the end I decided to look past that and to watch it again when I get the chance. I think this is a good film that throws a lot into the mix and leaves the outcome a bit open for interpretation by the audience. Magnolia has done a wonderful job with the presentation of The life before her eyes on Blu-ray Disc. That alone may make it worth a revisit. I would recommend a rental prior to purchase for those who are curious.
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