Directed by Joshua Michael Stern
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 108 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: EHD, Spanish, French
Release Date: July 3, 2007
Review Date: July 3, 2007
With the recent releases on DVD of child focused semi-fantasies like Bridge to Terabithia and The Last Mimzy, it’s something of a surprise to welcome an adult semi-fantasy to their midsts. Enter Joshua Michael Stern’s Neverwas. With a sterling cast of award winning actors and a decent plot, Neverwas had the makings of a first-rate drama. Sadly, some untidiness in the plotting and development of the characters takes it down a peg or two. Still, it’s a nice little discovery.
Psychiatrist Zach Reily (Aaron Eckhart) applies for a position at Millwood Psychiatric Clinic, an institution where his famous author father had spent some time as a patient prior to his suicide. On a one month trial as an attending doctor, Zach uncovers more than he bargained for in his investigations into his father’s case. Along the way, he also reconnects with a childhood friend (Brittany Murphy) who’s not only a devoted fan of his father’s fantasy book Neverwas but also someone who’s nursing a big crush on the good doctor.
The producers have rounded up an astounding cast of award winning actors for this movie. The cast list is literally a roll call of former Oscar, Tony, Emmy, and Golden Globe winners from past years: William Hurt as the head of the clinic, Jessica Lange as Zach’s troubled mother, Nick Nolte as the deceased dad, Ian McKellan as a patient with a surprising familiarity to Zach’s past, Michael Moriarty and Alan Cumming as other patients in the clinic. Not all of these first-rate talents are used to their best advantage, but Nolte in the flashback sequences and McKellan in the modern ones really stand out with gripping portrayals. Eckhart, too, does himself proud as he delves deeper and deeper into the mystery and doesn’t always like what he finds.
Frankly, it’s the romance angle that is the film’s weak link, shoved into the narrative rather by rote and not especially interesting or welcome with subject matter as dark and moody as this. More could have been done with Lange, Hurt, Cumming, and Moriarty that would have been more in keeping with the film’s overall tone and heart.
The film’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio is delivered in an excellent anamorphic transfer. Colors are deeply saturated, and as the film takes place in autumn, there’s a burnished look to the cinematography throughout. The focus is quite sharp but shadow detail is only average. Of course, there are no particles of dirt or dust to mar the picture though there is minor edge enhancement occasionally. Flashback scenes with Nolte are filmed with somewhat more grain and with blown out colors, but this is an artistic choice and obviously not a defect in the transfer. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is well recorded, but as with many dialog-centered releases, the surrounds have not been utilized to their fullest extent. Music is certainly the primary inhabitant of the rear channels, but ambient sounds aren’t often directed there, and the subwoofer doesn’t get much use either.
The disc features previews of three upcoming films to theaters or DVD: Underdog, Wild Hogs, and The Invisible. The previews are in non-anamorphic letterbox format.
Neverwas has an outstanding cast and a story that will hold your attention. That it isn’t better than it is certainly is a shame, but what’s here is good enough for a rental if the subject matter interests you at all.