Studio: Columbia TriStar
USA Rating: R
Canada Rating: 14A
Film Length: 100 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: Dolby Digital: 5.1 English, 5.1 French
Subtitles: English, French
Release Date: August 26, 2003
What would you do if you did something that you regretted? Would you try to resolve it immediately or let it pass? If it involved someone else would you seek closure on the issue, or would you believe what you’ve done has been done and move on? If you let it pass would it always be on your mind? How would you cope over time? These are some of the questions director Ed Soloman asks the audience in his film Levity.
Written and directed by Soloman, this film is a story about a man named Manuel Jordan seeking to decide questions such as these for himself. Manuel (Billy Bob Thorton) is released from serving a 21-year jail term for the murder of a young variety store clerk named Abner Easly (Luke Robertson) whose face he will never forget. Out in the world, Manuel is out of place. He silently walks the streets wondering if he’d ever receive forgiveness for what he did so many years ago from a God whose existence he doubts.
In the wintry dead of night, Manuel walks back to the store where he committed the crime and reflects on his regretful moment in history. Manuel literally receives a calling – from a pay phone ringing for someone else not present. This phone call introduces Manuel to Miles Evans (Morgan Freeman) who gives him small work in a parking lot and a place to stay beside the hall where Miles preaches to the youth in the troubled neighborhood. He meets many youth, including Sofia Mellinger (Kirsten Dunst) who abuses her body as she drinks excessively at the night scene.
The three personalities politely collide as Manuel learns how other people live. Sofia disorientates herself because it makes the present go away in her mind, so she doesn’t have to think about the troubles in her life. Miles believes whatever has been done in the past was done. There is no reason to fix it and one should move on in life. Manual believes in the opposite: no matter what wrongdoing he has done in the past, he should find a way to receive forgiveness by doing something good to those he has hurt. Most members of the audience watching this film can now find themselves falling into one of these three categories.
Manuel seeks a relative of the young Abner Easly he killed. He finds his older sister Adele Easly (Holly Hunter). She doesn’t know of Manuel’s past, so after some awkward meetings they get to know each other well. Manuel shows his kind and gentle side, the man he always was and is at heart. He is tormented day by day by his unintended action that left Abner dead. But Manuel is at odds with himself and helping people. He is unsure how to and if he can make things better. He can’t apologise to Adele for the murder of her brother. In Manuel’s interest, he must find ways to make up for the past even if he believes it will cause him to loose his relationship with Adele. But both Sofia and Miles could also hold secrets to complete Manuel’s redemption.
This is one of the best films I have seen in a long time. With solid performances from Thorton, Freeman, Hunter, and Dunst, this film will get your mind thinking. It doesn’t answer the questions asked throughout the film, and it shouldn’t. We all have our personal beliefs in how we live our lives, and Soloman leaves it open for us to decide without forcing the viewer to adopt and accept a particular opinion.
The sharp editing by Pietro Scalia emerged me in the film. I found myself engaged to the characters and never experiencing a dull moment. I felt sad when they were sad. I smiled when they were happy. This is a quality drama I believe most fans of the genre will enjoy. Unfortunately Soloman is correct in when speaking about how dramas are not commercial. They are harder to market to the audience and getting support from the studios is more difficult. I wish more people would give dramas a fair view without expecting the wizardry of blockbuster films. This is a simple film that excels beyond most blockbusters with a solid story and performance.
Video Quality? /
Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen the image is pleasing. Flesh tones are accurate and there is excellent contrast and nice detail. Colours are artistically used contrasting brilliantly with the surroundings or appearing muted. The overall image has a smooth look to it that suits the moods of loneliness and loss the film is trying to create. Film grain and dirt specks are present at times but not distracting enough to take away from the appreciation of Roger Deakin’s excellent cinematography.
Audio Quality? /
The film’s soundtrack is quiet in nature, but perfectly so to take advantage of dynamic range when needed. Surround information is subtle, and it engulfs the viewer to experience the sounds of a cold winter night. Mark Oliver’s music score is excellent and recorded well with a wonderful sense of space and dimension. His subtle and simple music is also very pleasing and powerful. It helped me relate Manuel’s isolation from the world. I believe music is well done when it can portray feelings to me on a personal level. In order to fully appreciate this film’s soundtrack, a completely quiet environment is recommended. No screaming kids. No dishwasher or laundry machines running in the next room. Quiet is a must. I know not all viewers will have this luxury, but do try to be immersed in this performance.
Special Features? /
We are provided with a commentary track with writer/director Ed Soloman, editor Pietro Scalia (who is rather reserved), and one of the producers, Adam J. Merims. This commentary track is recorded low, so remember to turn down your volume again before putting one a new source. They talk about the visuals, the music, and Soloman’s inspiration for the film many years ago. It took over ten years to get this movie to the screen because of delays on Soloman’s readiness for a final writing and eventual financing. We are also treated with a short feature featuring director and talent interviews. Much of what is in the featurette is also in the commentary. The theatrical trailer is also on the disc presented in anamorphic widescreen.
I was pleased to be introduced to this film. I hadn’t heard of it before most likely because it probably wasn’t marketed properly. The film has an excellent cast and makes the excellent story better with their standout performances. I wish these types of films received more effort from ‘above’ to expand its audience and to get more people to watch them. This movie deserves to be paid attention to. It won’t trick you in the story nor will it make you say “wow”. But it will make you think and it will make you feel. Levity is like reading a book. You can take it at your own pace and listen to what the writer is trying to say. It might even make you think about the way you live your own life. But it will never force you to believe any other way is more correct.