In a cinematic world full of angry, clichéd teenagers, it's refreshing to get a high school drama like 'Terri.' A dramedy where young kids act normally, instead of being pigeonholed into formulaic clique behavior. The high school in 'Terri' resembles a high school environment I remember from my own teen days, not a Hollywood-ized version with mean jocks, plastic cheerleaders, and groups of nerds complete with pocket protectors. No, 'Terri' feels much more genuine and heartfelt.
Terri (Jacob Wysocki) is a loner. He's overweight, isn't popular, and wears pajamas to school every day because they're comfortable. He takes an endless amount of abuse from mean kids who make fun of his outfits and his weight. Terri takes it in stride though. It's easy to see that the ridicule affects him, but not to the point where he just gives up. He more or less lets it happen and then tries to forget about it directly after the fact. He lives alone with his uncle (Creed Bratton), who has good days and bad ones. On the good days he's lucid and alert, on the bad days Terri has to lead him by the hand to bed. He doesn't complain though, because that's who Terri is. He's a nice kid. He wants to help his uncle even though it's a lot of work to do so.
At school Terri begins forming a relationship with the assistant principal Mr. Fitzgerald (John C. Reilly). Fitzgerald is the quintessential vice principal. A guy who just wants to help, but maybe goes about it in the wrong ways. He tries to treat every child with the same amount of respect as the last, but this gets him in trouble when Terri is lead to believe that this one-on-one mentoring is one of a kind.
Terri has his eyes on the prettiest girl in school, Heather Miles (Olivia Crocicchia). Heather isn't the normal stuck-up pretty girl that we see so many times in high school movies. She's just as vulnerable as Terri, but in different ways. Her boyfriend pressures her to perform a sex act in class, which leads to her own downward spiral.
Wysocki pulls off one of the best young person performances of the year. He doesn't overact in any way. Instead he plays Terri with a sort of quiet dignity. Terri isn't the most talkative person, but through Wysocki's performance we're able to completely relate to Terri even if he isn't saying a word. The transformation he undergoes throughout the movie is palpable. We feel for him. We root for him. And Wysocki makes it easy for us to love him.
Much like the indie dramedy 'Win Win ,' 'Terri' features a smart and realistic portrayal of high school life. What it's really like being a social outcast, and how younger kids could end up dealing with that kind of life without being angry at the world. Terri gets lost in his hobbies. He loves reading, he loves helping his uncle and he's genuinely curious about the world.
There's a heart about 'Terri' that is seriously lacking in the world of high school-themed movies. At times it may be hard to watch, because kids can and will be cruel to those who look and act different. In the end though, 'Terri' is a wonderful little indie film which will be hard for anyone to dislike.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a 20th Century Fox release. One 25GB Blu-ray Disc is included, which is housed in an eco-friendly Blu-ray keepcase. It's labeled as being a Region A release.
'Terri' was actually shot on 35mm, which lends itself well to a nice-looking high definition transfer. What you'll notice right away is the amount of textual and facial detail that is included in the visuals here. Every craggy age line on Bratton's face, every curly lock on Reilly's head is clearly defined. There's a noticeable understated indie softness to the picture, but it doesn't hamper fine detail in any way.
Colors are a tad muted on purpose with a color palette offering mostly earth tones. Tans, browns, and dark oranges and reds dominate the film's look. Even though the colors don't exactly jump off the screen at you they are perfectly represented here, and reflect the more serious nature of the movie. Blacks are very well defined, offering depth to the picture even during the darkest scenes. This is usually where indie movies filmed digitally falter. Blacks become indistinct and crushing. Not so here. The scene towards the end where Terri and Heather hang out in the dark features wonderfully delineated shadows. Crushing is negligible here. Instead shadows add a much needed dimensionality to the picture.
Conversely well-lit scenes present clear edges, nicely delineated shadow detail, and easily noticeable fine detail. 'Terri' looks great on Blu-ray, especially considering its low-budget indie style of filmmaking. One of the better looking indie films out there.
Like many indie films, the movie is especially front-heavy since there aren't many needs for surround sound. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is technically proficient, but won't really surprise you in any way. It's a pretty straightforward mix as far as talkative dramas go.
Dialogue is clear, even during whispered moments. This is evident during a scene where Heather's boyfriend pressures her in class to perform the sex act she's hesitant to do. He whispers "you promised," which can be heard quite clearly even though it's hushed and filmed at a distance. Surrounds are given a bit of nuanced work to do, like when Terri lies in bed listening to the mouse traps in the attic snap closed as the mice become enticed by cheese on them.
LFE is almost non-existent, just because there isn't a real reason why deep bass would be needed. Even the movie's soundtrack is very understated and never has any real need for low-end sonics. It's technically proficient as far as drama tracks go, but never really has a point that takes it to the next level. This is almost entirely because of the nature of the movie though, so take that for what it's worth.
'Terri' is a great little drama that has the potential to find its way into my personal top ten when the end of the year rolls around. It just has that very genuine feeling to it that is lacking in most of today's high school-themed films. The audio and video are pleasing, but the special features are pretty disappointing. On the whole though, 'Terri' comes recommended.