Plot: What’s it about?
This story centers on a house on a large estate in 1920s Cork County, Ireland. The owners of this house are an older couple, Richard & Myra Naylor (Michael Gambon & Maggie Smith), who oversee all the things that happen inside & people that pass through the house. At this time in Ireland, there is a massive battle for freedom and though it is not close to the home, it affects some of the people that live there. Such as their niece, Lois (Keely Hawes) who is a beautiful young woman and longs for total freedom in her own life. She wants to fall in love and that stuff, but usually ends up just has some fun with some of the men who pass through. One of those men is a British officer who loves her very much, while another is an Irish freedom fighter she has known since childhood. Also among the guests at the house is a married couple with some secrets (Lambert Wilson & Jane Birkin), the nephew of the owners (Jonathan Slinger), and the newest arrival, a talkative woman who loves to give advice (Fiona Shaw). In the midst of all this talk of freedom and battles, what will become of those who reside within this house?
This film never reached the theaters near me, but I had heard some good things about it, so I was looking forward to this disc. I knew very little about the film in terms of storyline and such, but I just felt like there was something about this one that I would like. I’ve now seen the film of course and I am pleased with what I saw, though some problems did emerge. The cast is excellent and few weak links could be found, but not all the characters have been given the depth they deserve and that hinders the smaller roles somewhat. But the flaws within the writing are not fatal and as such, I am pleased to give The Last September a good recommendation. This is a lush period piece loaded with terrific production design and a superb cast from top to bottom. The pace is slow and that might scare some off, but in the end little is wasted in the larger scope of the movie. This is not for everyone, as the slower pace and lack of action might derail a few folks, but if you have the patience, this is a fine movie that is more than worth a look.
At the helm of this movie is Deborah Warner and while this is only her second feature film, this proves to be a solid effort in all regards. The visuals sparkle and the costumes are marvelous, while the acting is tremendous on all counts. This all ties together very well also, as Warner has delivered a very natural film and that is crucial to this storyline. A piece like this isn’t an easy undertaking, but Warner has proven her skills and come through with flying colors. This cast is loaded with talent, but I think the show belongs to Maggie Smith (Hook, Richard III), who really shines in her role here. Smith has more than proven herself over the years, but it seems as though she is always elevating her skills to another level with each film. I would recommend this movie just for her performance alone, she is that good here. The rest of the cast includes Lambert Wilson (The Public Woman, Jefferson In Paris), Jane Birkin (Serious As Pleasure, The Pirate), Michael Gambon (The Insider, Sleepy Hollow), David Tennant (L.A. Without A Map), Richard Roxburgh (Mission: Impossible 2, Passion), and Fiona Shaw (The Avengers, RKO 281).
Video: How does it look?
The Last September is presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, which is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. This turns out to be an above average transfer, but it is not without flaws in the end. I noticed some compression errors here & there, which I think a new anamorphic transfer would have cleared up, but the main issue is the contrast. A few sequences reflect imbalanced black levels, which results in overly dark portions of the screen. The detail loss is not extreme, but it does obscure some and is worth mentioning in this review. The colors look good though, never smearing and always on the rich end of the spectrum. I don’t feel the bad outweighs the good in this transfer, but the contrast issues do bring down the score a notch.
Audio: How does it sound?
This isn’t an audio driven film in the least, but the included Dolby Digital 5.1 track does provide an ample audio experience. The musical score is the most active element and uses the surround channels well, but the other elements seem firmly rooted in the front speakers. This is not a bad thing in the least though, as it seems to me that is just as it should be. The dialogue is clean & crisp at all times, no volume issues to contend with at all. This track might not overpower you, but it is more than adequate for this material. This disc also includes subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
You can watch some interviews with director Deborah Warner and actress Fiona Shaw, both of which were informative and never dull. I was surprised at how in depth they were also, not just simple fluff pieces in the least. A twenty-three minute “dramatic reading” is included, in which selections from the book are read and though this isn’t my cup of tea, I am pleased it has been included. If you click on the Trimark logo on the main page, you can view the film’s theatrical trailer and who doesn’t love trailers?