OK, I'll just come right out and admit it. I can be a sucker for sappy love triangles. I'm not proud of this fact by any means, mind you, but come on! A little juicy soap opera drama never hurt anybody. I mean, what's more exciting than trying to guess who a woman is going to finally end up with? Will she pick the boring Boy Scout or the rugged bad boy? The vampire or the werewolf? That's undeniably riveting stuff, right? No? Hmm, it's getting awfully quiet in here… Fine, before I officially have to revoke my Man Card, I'll just get to the point. While I can usually appreciate a well crafted love triangle, the romantic plotting we're treated to in 'And While We Were Here' doesn't quite fit that bill. Come to think of it, the scripting ends up being so pointless, dull, and clichéd, that I really didn't care whether our female lead picked her figurative "vampire" or "werewolf." In fact, I just kind of wanted them all to be eaten by actual vampires and werewolves. Now that would have been really riveting stuff!
While traveling to the Island of Ischia with her husband (Iddo Goldberg), Jane (Kate Bosworth) struggles to get started on a book she's been developing about her grandmother's life. To make matters even more complicated, she becomes increasingly disconnected from her marriage and fears that the passion in her relationship might be gone. During her attempts to clear her head, she meets a younger man, Caleb (Jamie Blackley), and the two eventually form a strong attraction to one another. As her desires and obligations collide, Jane will have to decide where her heart truly lies.
Though far from original or even particularly interesting, the setup has some potential. From the get go, writer/director Kat Coiro uses her island location to its fullest, offering a slow, handheld style that captures the inherent beauty of the characters' surroundings. Several early scenes place a heavy emphasis on Jane as she simply wanders around the city, and these sequences work well to engender a romantically listless mood marked by quiet, intimate direction. Likewise, the married couples' emotional rut is clearly established with a palpable undercurrent of hostility boiling just beneath the surface, and all the pieces are laid in place for some standard love triangle drama.
To this end, the cast is actually quite solid and the trio at the heart of the story turn in very natural, low key performances. Bosworth is good as Jane and exudes confusion, vulnerability and strength. Goldberg and Blackley are also well cast as her husband and potential fling respectively. The former is dull and bit too focused on his work but still clearly cares for his wife, while the latter offers Jane a spark of youthful fun and unpredictability that has long since faded from her marriage. Each pairing carries decent chemistry and for a time the acting helps to keep the film's predictable plotting engaging.
Sadly, however, the film's second half really starts to deteriorate, and the script simply devolves into tedious melodrama. The love triangle becomes rather mean-spirited at times, and the plot really starts to meander, lulling the runtime into a sleepy malaise where nothing interesting happens. Though some of Coiro's direction is appropriately sensitive and sensual, there is an occasional air of pretension to the execution and some of the courtship scenes between Jane and Caleb are just plain cheesy, leaving us with one particularly laughable montage sequence. Dialogue also becomes problematic, with several vague philosophical discussions that start and go nowhere. Actually, that pretty much sums up the film as a whole. It basically ends up going nowhere. Jane's ultimate decision is very abrupt and leaves absolutely no impact, and while there are elements of her situation that are sympathetic, her behavior becomes increasingly unlikeable, making it hard to really care who she ends up with.
'And While We Were Here' tries to be a romantic, sensitive, and perceptive drama about troubled relationships, illicit passions, the search for happiness, and the difficulties of finding one's place in life, but the screenplay is far too familiar, shallow, and ultimately rudderless. Melodramatic and pointless, the movie squanders some good performances with a boring, trite script, problematic characterizations, and a few cheesy flourishes. Those looking for a quality love triangle drama will have to keep searching. Hell, channel surfing through your basic daytime soap lineup might actually yield better results. Or at least, so I'm told…
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Well Go USA brings 'And While We Were Here' to Blu-ray on a single BD-50 disc housed in a keepcase. After some skippable trailers the screen transitions to a standard menu. A Director's Cut version is also included on the same disc which simply features the film in black and white. The packaging indicates that the release is region A coded.
The film is presented in a 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Though the movie features a fitting visual style, there are some notable technical issues that hold the video back.
While I can't be sure whether they stem from the transfer or the original shooting equipment, the digital source is prone to frequent artifacts and an overall low grade appearance. Noise is apparent in several scenes, particularly those with low light. Likewise, banding is also noticeable and some scenes (like the opening shots) even exhibit some faint blocking and other signs of compression, and there are also isolated instances of aliasing. These artifacts don't ruin the experience, but they can be a little distracting. Overall detail is decent, but the picture does have a rather soft appearance and wide shots tend to be on the blurry side with indistinct textures. The color palette offers a slightly sepia look and contrast is a bit blown out. Likewise, blacks are steady, but shadows can look a little crushed. A black and white director's cut version is also included and, for the most part, this transfer features the same issues as the color edit.
Whether you watch it in color or black and white, 'And While We Were Here' suffers from some noticeable artifacts. While these technical issues are likely the result of the HD shooting equipment used, they do lend the picture a low budget quality.
The movie is provided with an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track along with optional English SDH subtitles. Delicate but gently immersive, this is a solid mix that helps to extend the film's mood.
For the most part, dialogue is clear, but there are instances when speech is a bit soft and a tad muffled. The soundstage offers a convincing sense of space and atmosphere, sending subtle but effective ambiance around the room with smooth imaging and appropriate directionality. Traffic, wind, and gently breaking waves all help to convey the island city location, and the rhythmic design work complements the film's romantic elements well. Dynamic range is decent but low frequency activity is negligible (as one would expect for a movie of this type).
Simple but nicely balanced and subtly enveloping, this is a pleasing track. The film's lower budget roots are evident, but the design work is relatively well done.
'And While We Were Here' features some solid performances and decent direction, but the script is disappointingly melodramatic while still being exceptionally dull, and the love triangle story ultimately adds up to very little. The audio mix is pretty good, but the video transfer is prone to noticeable artifacts and a low grade digital look. Though we get a black and white "Director's Cut," there are no real supplements included. This is a mediocre disc for a problematic and tedious flick. Even admirers of typical romantic dramas will likely want to skip this.