Directed by Tim Fywell
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 90 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo English
MSRP: $ 29.99
Release Date: August 19, 2008
Review Date: August 5, 2008
A Gothic romance with a touch of mystery and a surprising twist, Tim Fywell’s Affinity is an involving and well made cable bauble. Looking far more expensive and elaborate than a made-for-cable feature has any right to look, Affinity will take one by surprise. It’s literate, concise, and inevitably affecting regardless of one’s sexual orientation. Premiering on the Logo Channel on August 17, 2008, this DVD special edition will be available for sale two days later.
Victorian England is the setting for the story of Margaret Prior (Anna Madeley), a brooding girl in her late twenties headed for spinsterhood since the love of her life, Helen (Caroline Loncq), has abandoned her for Margaret’s brother. To give her life some purpose, Margaret begins a philanthropic mission of visiting the women’s prison at Millbank and bringing comfort and companionship to some of the female inmates. One prisoner in particular catches her attention, the lovely, ethereal Selina Dawes (Zoë Tapper) who’s a self-avowed medium with a reputation of being able to summon spirits at séances who tell her intimacies about people and foretell future events. As her visits to Selina grow more frequent and the two women share confidences, Margaret finds herself falling in love with the troubled young woman and determines that if Selina’s spirits can free her from prison as she swears they can, they can have a life together.
Andrew Davies’ script is based on the novel by Sarah Waters, and it’s a wonderfully succinct condensation of the involved story. Davies has fashioned a series of flashbacks detailing Selina’s story all the while the present-day narrative continues moving forward. The glimpses we get of Selina make us as intrigued by this woman as Margaret is so that the viewer takes that leap of faith with Margaret that the entire plot pivots on. The assured direction by Tim Fywell aids in beautifully setting the mood for the piece with the séances nuanced and spooky and the supernatural quite eerily and believably put forth. Period clothes, furnishings, and sets are handsome for a low budget production (the movie was shot in Romania), and only some less-than-admirable makeup for the men’s period muttonchops (ill-fitting and sometimes not matching the natural hair color of the gentlemen) take away from an otherwise very polished production design.
Anna Madeley makes a haunting Margaret, just getting over the death of her beloved father and holding out such hope for this new infatuation. Zoë Tapper’s Selina inhabits both her flashbacks and the present story with well orchestrated facets of this complex character. The always brilliant Anna Massey does very well as the stern prison head mistress while Tony and Emmy award-winning Amanda Plummer has a surprisingly small role as another prison matron. Anne Reid does very nicely with Margaret’s concerned housemaid Ruth while Domini Blythe excels as Margaret’s haughty and impatient mother.
It’s a satisfying if sobering story being imparted in Affinity, and the surprises are so well executed that one doesn‘t resent in the least when the rug is eventually pulled out from under one‘s feet.
Though the box art claims the movie is full frame, the film is actually presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer that is very well executed. Colors are a shade desaturated to add a bit of ambiance to the Gothic trappings of the story, but sharpness is very good and black levels nicely delivered. The image gains a goodly amount of grain in the lowest lit portions of the prison, so there has obviously been no digital scrubbing applied to this transfer. The film has been divided into 14 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack is a nice mixture of dialog in the center channel, and music and infrequent effects in the others. Though the music levels tend to be louder than necessary, they still never drown out what the actors have to say. The mix does betray the low budget of the enterprise, however, as a complete surround mix could have worked wonders with the séance sequences and some other moments that would have gained greatly from a fuller immersion in sound.
The disc includes one deleted scene in anamorphic widescreen running only 1 ½ minutes, and it’s a scene certainly not necessary to the movie.
A making-of featurette with director Tim Fywell and producer Adrian Bate gives some good information about their discovery of the original novel and their desire to film it, though the 6-minute anamorphic featurette ends rather abruptly.
The film’s Logo trailer runs 2 ¾ minutes and is in anamorphic widescreen.
4 interviews with key production personnel are offered, all in anamorphic widescreen: original novelist Sarah Waters (10 minutes), screenwriter Andrew Davies (5 ½ minutes), and stars Zoë Tapper (6 minutes) and Anna Madeley (5 minutes).
The disc contains 6 excerpts from Logo programming that all involve lesbian stories or slants including a sketch from The Big Gay Sketch Show and two of Julie Goldman’s Celesbian Interviews.
Previews of available Logo DVDs include Exes & Ohs, AfterEllen.com, The Big Gay Sketch Show, and Rick & Steve.
With traces of The Moonstone, Maurice, and even Brideshead Revisited, Affinity offers an enjoyable and affecting story of 19th century London with characters we come to care about and story that has some deft surprises.