My own high school reunion is about two years away, and like many before me, I've yet to decide if I'm actually going to attend. The prospect of seeing old friends who I've lost touch with, or secret crushes I never had the guts to talk to, leaves me simultaneously delighted, intrigued, and panicked. Writer Jamie Linden's directorial debut, '10 Years,' taps into all these mixed emotions, and then throws in a generous helping of wistful nostalgia and light-hearted laughs. While the ensemble comedy fails to really break any new ground, the film is sweet, sincere, and entertaining. I wasn't initially pulled in by the simple plot and characters, but the movie's endearing performances and sensitive direction gradually won me over.
The story follows a group of friends who all gear up to attend their ten year high school reunion. Each character has their own hang-ups and baggage, and throughout the night they try to rekindle old romances, spark new ones, and make amends for poor decisions. As the gang all trudge through a series of awkward encounters, poignant conversations, and drunken antics, they'll have to ultimately decide whether they want to continue living in the past, or finally look toward the future.
The likeable ensemble all play off each other well, and there is an effortless, friendly dynamic between the cast that really sells their various histories with one another. While each character starts off feeling a bit clichéd, the film gradually reveals more layers, exposing deeper hopes, dreams, and flaws that help to flesh them out beyond mere stock personalities. Their various arcs are all pretty familiar and conventional, but the modest filmmaking and engaging performances carry an earnest charm that help to differentiate the proceedings from similar efforts.
The central narrative thread follows the romantically torn Jake (Channing Tatum), who secretly hopes to see his old flame (Rosario Dawson) before deciding whether or not to propose to his current girlfriend (Jenna Dewan-Tatum). Tatum doesn't exactly stand out in the role, but he does solid work, and his internal conflict over the past and present acts as the film's central quandary. Justin Long and Max Minghella are also decent as a pair of immature best friends who both vie for the same girl. Their characters start off as the least likeable, but they eventually redeem themselves (more or less).
Other subplots involve a former bully (Chris Pratt) desperate to apologize to the classmates he tormented, and a now famous musician's (Oscar Isaac) attempts to finally win the heart of the girl (Kate Mara) he has secretly pined for since graduation. The former is worth a few laughs at first and then takes a more serious turn as the character's forceful behavior and alcoholism get the better of him. The latter, is actually one of the film's most endearing aspects, and while the storyline is your basic second chance at love scenario, the two actor's share great chemistry. Aubrey Plaza, Anthony Mackie, Lynn Collins, Scott Porter, Ari Gaynor, and Brian Gerghty all make notable appearances as well, but sadly, the usually amusing Ron Livingston is completely wasted in a throw-away part.
The runtime mostly jumps from conversation to conversation throughout the night, periodically checking in with various characters as their storylines all intermingle. Some of the couplings prove to be more entertaining than others, but the patchy framework keeps things lively and lends the proceedings some nice variety. Humor is derived from typical awkward interactions, and while this isn’t exactly a gut-busting affair, there are some funny moments peppered throughout. With that said, some of the script's attempts at witty dialogue fall a little flat. Actual dramatic elements end up sneaking in as well, and the film's third act introduces some sobering reality to the silly drunkenness that came before. A palpable undercurrent of bittersweet nostalgia permeates these later scenes, leading to some interesting observations about second chances, unexpected life detours, letting go of past regrets, and learning to seize the moment.
'10 Years' isn't a totally successful effort, but writer/director Jamie Linden brings just enough heart and soul to the proceedings to make it worthwhile. The plotting is obvious and familiar, but the character work is ultimately strong, and the talented young cast is fun to watch. The flick got a theatrical run back in September, but its limited release never played on more than 63 screens. Thankfully, this Blu-ray now gives the movie an opportunity to find a wider audience. Films about growing up are a dime a dozen, and while this is far from a new classic in the genre, the execution is sweet, funny, and surprisingly affecting. In fact, it might have even convinced me to attend my own reunion... maybe.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Anchor Bay brings '10 Years' to Blu-ray on a BD-25 disc housed in a keepcase. After some skippable trailers, the disc transitions to a standard menu. The packaging indicates that the release is region A coded.
The movie is provided with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Natural and nicely detailed, this is a modest but pleasing video presentation through and through.
The source is in perfect condition with no notable issues to speak of. Some very light grain is visible (particularly in darker scenes) but for the most part the image has a clean yet still filmic appearance. Detail is solid throughout, though the picture is on the flat side. Colors can look a little dull, but saturation is natural, and a few scenes set at night amidst vivid lights offer some decent pop. Contrast is a bit low, and while blacks are a hair elevated, they remain steady with good shadow delineation.
Unremarkable but problem free, '10 Years' looks pretty good on Blu-ray. This is a character driven, low budget comedy, so those expecting visual panache will likely be underwhelmed, but the resulting image leaves little to complain about.
The film is provided with an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track and a Spanish Dolby Digital mono track. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are also available. Basic but perfectly serviceable, the mix does what it needs to do with little fanfare.
Dialogue is mostly clean, but some conversations can have a slightly muffled quality. Some minor directionality (a plane flying by) and appropriate effects (background chatter, crickets) are spread throughout the speakers, but the mix is never particularly immersive and the soundscape is relatively small. The film's score is largely made up of pop music selections and the songs come through with decent fidelity and separation, though some tracks are a little flat. A musical performance actually plays a key part in the story, and thankfully this sequence sounds great.
The soundfield is fairly limited, but the modest presentation fits well with the dialogue driven story. A few ambient effects and music selections help to liven things up, and there are no major technical issues to speak of.
'10 Years' is a surprisingly sweet and endearing comedy. The script goes down a rather obvious path, but the performances and direction are heartfelt, tapping into the bittersweet nostalgia of unrequited love, old flames, past glories, and looming regrets. While the video and audio both reflect the film's modest roots, the disc's technical presentation is still very solid. The only supplement provided is a collection of deleted scenes, but they're all pretty amusing. Despite what its fleeting limited release might lead one to believe, the film is actually well worth a look.