Lymelife is able to draw you in early with charming, tender, and funny moments. Everything seems functional and families are normal. They have nice homes, clothes, and seem to be on the right track for success.
At the center is Scott Bartlett (Rory Culkin), a kid entering his teenage years being beat-up at school and his brother (Kieran Clukin) is going off to war. The two have a natural chemistry (as is to be expected) but it creates further involvement in the believability of the story, crucial given the film’s focus on character.
Everything else around Scott, including his parents, initially fits the mold of the typical American family expectation. Underneath that friendly exterior is a cold, nasty lifestyle that Scott can barely ignore. Scott’s dad Mickey (Alec Baldwin) is having an affair with Melissa Bragg (Cynthia Nixon). She is the mother of Scott’s potential girlfriend, creating a further riff in their already strained father/son relationship.
Brenda (Jill Hennessy) plays Scott’s mother, a woman putting on a façade to shield her children from her slowly crumbling marriage. This builds a tense background to the film, one that finally erupts in a powerful, emotional argument between Brenda and Mickey.
Derick Martini directs with a style that is typical of modern indie films, and at times feels forced. A shot of Hennessy outside her car, umbrella opened, with a train passing by is a perfect example of a moment that is trying too hard to be artsy. The shot is important in establishing the character’s lack of certainty, lost dreams, and inability to deal with the drastically changing situation. There is a constant focus battle in the camera, with shots going in and out in the same frame, perfectly complementing the needs of the story.
Martini’s skills are best utilized in a fantastic bar sequence between the two husbands of the story, Mickey and Charlie (Timothy Hutton). Charlie is suffering from Lyme disease, and has become aware of the affair between Mickey and his own wife. The long shots of Charlie – out of focus – at one end of the bar as Mickey tries to escape at the other are spectacular in creating dread.
It is a critical sequence in preparing the audience for dramatic ending, one left open to the audience, although an alternate ending clearly shows the intention. The impact is powerful, and even with the alternate, Lymlife stills asks for involvement from the audience as to whether or not the current situation could have resolved itself. Given the dire circumstances, it’s doubtful.
Screen Media Films delivers a fine AVC encode with minimal problems. Muted colors are accurately represented, and flesh tones are wonderful. A strong contrast is pleasing, although black levels are at times washed out. The encode handles complex shots of the forest, complete with countless leaves on the ground, cleanly. Few artifacting issues are noted, although the grain structure presents a few problems. A noisy shot around the 27-minute mark (a dinner scene) also carries some light banding against the wall.
Detail is fair, occasionally moving into territory that is more representative of the format’s best. Sharpness stays firm, although those who mistake soft focus for flaws in the transfer are missing the point. Some light edging and a few power lines that suffer from aliasing are quickly forgotten.
A DTS-HD track offers little discussion for the home theater enthusiast. A sporadic piece of audio from the rear surrounds or stereo channels is noted, if brief. Dialogue is at times somewhat low, but always crisp. Musical cues are clean and satisfying.
Derick Martini provides a commentary track which carries over to a selection of eight deleted scenes and the alternate ending, which runs for nearly 20 minutes.