Being assigned a random unheard-of Blu-ray to review can be quite refreshing. Knowing absolutely nothing about a movie prior to popping it in really tests your courage, but it's delightful when the film proves to be a gem. The last couple titles that I recall being like this were 'The Way' and 'The War of the Arrows.' On the other hand, when you give an unknown title a shot and it ends up being a disaster, the experience is so unpleasant that you'll never want to take this risky chance ever again. I knew nothing about 'Some Days Are Better Than Others' prior to having it assigned to me and, luckily, it landed in the middle ground.
Whoever made 'Some Days Are Better Than Others' has obviously seen way too many obscure little Gus Van Sant movies. This slow-paced ensemble drama follows three Oregonians in their different lives. While each of their situations is unique, they all share one similarity – lonely melancholy. Of course, by the end of the movie, we learn how their lives are connected.
We first meet Katrina right after she has been indirectly dumped by her long-time boyfriend. She works at an animal shelter and her emotional well-being now resembles that of the doomed caged dogs that she works with. Her life is full of despair because she now doesn't have a single person to express herself to. Yearning for someone - anyone - to hear her hearts complaints, Katrina makes video diaries in hopes of becoming a reality TV star so that she can unload her concerns to a massive audience, receiving the empathy of hundred of thousands of strangers.
Eli is the second lead of the film. His life is directionless. Eli lacks ambition in every way. He works random temp jobs to pay the bills. His goal is to work in the film industry, but he's not doing a single thing to move him towards that dream job. He doesn't have a car, so his widower step-grandfather drives him everywhere he needs to go. He doesn't have any friends because he never puts forth the effort to make any. The same goes for his love life. In essence, Eli is a bum.
The third character that we meet is Camille, a sorter at a local thrift store. Her mundane solitary existence is given purpose when she organizes a box of donated goods and finds an urn containing the ash remains of a little girl. Believing that the urn was accidentally tossed out, she dedicates her all to finding the owner. Camille is torn at the thought of a lost or unwanted little girl without a home.
Most ensemble flicks that ultimately draw the characters together show strong bonds between them all, making their lives and trials inseparable. 'Some Days Are Better Than Others' barely connects the characters. One character never meets or crosses paths with another. One pair is predictably connected, although the filmmakers trying pulling the wool over our eyes. And the other connection is so flimsy that it's pointless: a character literally watches another at a very long distance. In essence, one whole character serves no purpose to the others. The characters and their stories aren't bad – in fact, it's the opposite; they're quite good – but they each deserve a film of their own, not a shared 94-minute chunk of time that barely gets beneath the surface.
'Some Days Are Better Than Others' isn't a total failure. The performances from our three leads are fantastic. 'Portlandia''s Carrie Brownstein (Katrina) is great throughout the film, but is given one specific scene that allows her to really shine. The same goes for Renee Roman Nose (Camille). James Mercer, known from the indie band The Shins, is also good, but all too often feels like he's giving his best Edward Norton impression. The music and shooting style of the film provides a perfect tone and backdrop for the themes at hand. Technically, 'Some Days Are Better Than Others' is very well made – it's just the content that could have been done better.
Just like the producing team's other movie 'Wendy and Lucy,' I'm certain that there's an audience out there that will love 'Some Days Are Better Than Others.' The super slow pacing and random, seemingly pointless scenes will function on a wavelength that speaks to them. Unfortunately, that's not me and I truly only know a handful of people who adore such filmmaking. 'Some Days Are Better Than Others' is really just a collection of three similar character studies with (mostly) non-existent connections. It's all set-up with absolutely no pay-off. I don't require it, but a little dénouement is always nice.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Palisades Tartan has placed 'Some Days Are Better Than Others' on a Region A BD-25 in a standard blue keepcase. Aside from the trailers for 'The First Beautiful Thing,' 'This Is Not A Film' and 'All That I Love,' none of the pre-menu videos are skippable – FBI, firmware and commentary warnings and vanity reels. Although 'Some Days Are Better Than Others' has not yet been rated by the MPAA, it would certainly receive an R-rated for language.
The most impressive visual aspect of this Blu-ray makes its debut before you even start the feature. The main menu shows off some of the colorful sunrise/sunset B-roll shots used as scene transitions throughout the film. These scenes are so vibrant and lifelike that they feel like they belong amongst 'Planet Earth' and the other BBC Natures series. The natural beauty of the color palette is allowed to shine through in this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer – no matter if it's showing gorgeous skies, the changing colors of a fall forest or rainy and cloudy grays.
The picture quality is constantly clear, but at times falls victim to the commonly-used unfocused indie style. Sharp and defined details can be seen when the film is actually in focus. There are a few shots with focal racking towards the foreground that bring the central object in perfect clarity, then continues to rack right past it.
Black levels are decent, but aren't as strong as they could be. One interior scene reveals passengers on a bus coming out of a dark tunnel. In the darkness, black crush is easily apparent. Fortunately, this is the only compression flaw to appear. Noise, aliasing, artifacts and bands are absent. DNR and edge enhancement are not applied.
'Some Days Are Better Than Others' features an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that leaves much to be desired. This mild tracks doesn't feature fatal flaws, but falls victim to mediocrity.
This mild audio is much too simple for what we have all come to expect from lossless 5.1 tracks. Very little is done to make the audio fill the space. It's almost as if no effort was put into the raw audio beyond adding music. Despite being clear and always audible, the vocal track is flat. The effects are the most tame element of the audio. They are mixed throughout the channels, but the levels are so low that it is completely inefficient.
Thank heaven for the music mix or else this track would be tragically flat. Consisting of moody and bassy tones, the original scoring swells throughout all the channels, becoming the only dynamic part of the audio track.
I don't mind moody little character studies that don't feature much in the way of plot or dialog, but a little purpose and closure definitely helps those movies move and long and wind up being worth it. 'Some Days Are Better Than Others,' however, doesn't have much in the way of purpose and definitely doesn't offer closure. It's an ensemble film where the characters' connections are either flimsy or pointless. The only thing they all have in common is their loneliness. Well-made and well-acted, 'Some Days Are Better Than Others' isn't a complete waste – but if there's something you've been dying to watch, I'd recommend that over this. The video and audio qualities feature their indie imperfections and the special features are slim pickings, but if you like small dramas like 'Wendy and Lucy' and 'Restless,' then you're the audience for 'Some Days Are Better Than Others.'