Every so often a movie comes along that touches something inside the audience. It moves us on an emotional, perhaps even a personal level. Guinevere is such a film. The title is a bit deceptive. You probably immediately think of King Arthur and his ladylove. Instead this is a story of a young woman, Harper (Sarah Polley) and her love affair with a much older photographer Connie (Stephen Rea). This is a great example of a movie with a grand arc in character development. When we first see Harper at her sisters wedding she is a painfully shy girl. Instilled with little or no self-confidence she is constantly in the shadow of her older sister, her father and especially her domineering mother (Jean Smart). They are all lawyers and Harper is expected to follow the family trend and attend an Ivy League law school in the fall. When she goes to Connies loft to pick up the proofs of the wedding pictures they begin to talk and he sees in her potential for something far more creative and artistic than a lawyer. Soon they are living together, much to the chagrin of her mother. He makes just one demand upon her, she has to go into some form of artistic expression, whether it be dance, photography or painting. She agrees and he begins to mold her into a photographer. Still too shy to even take a picture Harper learns that she has a natural gift for composition, lighting and other aspects of the field. Connie is an alcoholic that holds court in a local bar. Surrounded by fellow artistic types they discuss every aspect of the human condition. This is in sharp contrast to the rigid conversations at Harpers family dinner table. Harper soon finds out that Connie has a habit of taking young girls under his wing. They are all called his Guineveres. Each one in turn loves him and is loved by Connie until they can stand on their own. It is a love story, a story of the triumph of inner strength and most of all a story of the potential in each of us.
While basically two-person story the cast includes many fine performances. Jean Smart is great as the over baring mother especially in a scene where she visits Harper and Connie at the loft. She shows ability for acting never seen in her TV roles. Rea as Connie is excellent. He gives his character a fully rounded personality rather than falling into the easy trap of making him a dirty old drunk. He plays Connie in such a way that we never blame him for his perchance for younger women but almost come to admire his school of life he offers them. Of course the best performances where provided by the up coming actress Sara Polley. Acting since she was six years old Polley has grown with almost every role she takes on. Guinevere represents the best she has to offer, to date. She transforms through the course of the film from a shy girl, a shadow of a real person to a confident, artistic young woman. At the end of the film Connie is dying and Harper gathers together all the Guineveres to present him with a photo of them all, "His Lifes Work" as she calls it. Polley is certainly an actress to watch as she continues to grow into one of the best young actors around.
The director, Audrey Wells, is better known for her success in writing screen plays. We can forgive her penning George of the Jungle as she has come up with such eclectic works as The Truth About Cats and Dogs and Jumanji. In this her freshman directing effort she exhibits great promise as a director. She has an excellent eye for details, framing and lighting. She manages to bring the best out of her actors and the effort shows on the screen to the benefit of the audience. I personally look forward to her next film.
The DVD is well done albeit a bit light on extras. The anamorphic 1.85:1 video transfer is excellent and up to contemporary standards. It is made from an excellent print and unblemished by defect. The Dolby 5.1 audio provides a better surround field than usually found in non-effects driven films. The details of the surrounds come alive in the rear speakers. This may be seen by many as a sappy romantic film but you should give it a try. It will provide laughs, a good cry and a chance to seen some stellar performances.