DVD Review: Lymelife

Directed By Derick Martini
Starring Rory Culkin, Alec Baldwin, Jill Hennessy, Emma Roberts and Kieran Culkin



A tremendously enjoyable slice of teen angst coming-of-age drama viewed through the filter of late ’70s nostalgia, Lymelife centres on fifteen-year-old Scott Bartlett (Rory Culkin) as he fumbles to navigate through the awkwardness of adolescence on Long Island. The escalating drama of his parents’ crumbling marriage is countered by the return of his rebellious military-enlisted brother (Kieran Culkin) and the seductive attentions of his crush-worthy neighbour (Emma Roberts), who’s suffering through family problems of her own beneath her confident façade.

Hitting all the standard hallmarks of the suburban indie movie (take dysfunctional families and divorce drama, add neighbourly infidelities, toss in adolescent apathy and baste with a retro setting for added flavour), Lymelife could hardly be accused of originality of concept. It helps monumentally, then, that a phenomenal ensemble cast armed with wonderfully well-written characters make the film feel incredibly fresh despite its genre familiarity; it may not be an entirely original film, but it’s one refreshingly well told.

Alec Baldwin is on great form, delivering volatile, boozy, smarmy charm and pride-masked vulnerability in equal measure as the Culkins’ overbearing father. Hutton is equally fantastic, offering up an impressive, heartfelt performance. Serving as the embodiment of the title’s ‘lyme disease as metaphor for life’s woes’ symbolism, he plays Roberts’ disease-stricken dad with a sympathetic weariness – an average, but fundamentally decent man left a hollow shell by illness and his wife’s infidelity. Jill Hennessy makes a memorable impression, too, as Baldwin’s downtrodden wife, while Emma Roberts once again proves she really deserves that upgrade from tween-friendly flicks to more substantial films.
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It’s Kieran Culkin who snatches the movie out from under his more seasoned castmates, though. As Scott’s army brother, who harbours a shed-load of Oedipal resentment towards dad Baldwin, he’s a minor marvel. Effortlessly natural, immensely charming, incredibly funny and often surprisingly intense, he’s the surprise unsung gem of the film, to the point where things would threaten to dim during his absence in the second half if it weren’t for the abundant talents of the ensemble.

It’s debatable whether Kieran’s brother Rory is actually a good actor, but all those minor quirks and niggles that could just as easily signify a bad performance elsewhere (awkward, unsure delivery and almost perpetually sullen demeanour) are oddly perfect for his role here, nailing the naturally cringe-worthy awkwardness of adolescence with ease. He and his real-life brother also channel that sibling synchronicity to great effect, too, conveying a page worth of dialogue in a few sarcastic glances across the dinner table.

The similarities to American Beauty and especially The Ice Storm might dilute the punch of Derick Martini’s film, but Lymelife is nonetheless an excellent film worthy of attention. Doing well to shirk the overwhelming melodrama, forced quirkiness and cloying sentimentality that most films of its ilk bathe in, it instead relies on depth of character and quality of writing. Boasting a cast of real, substantial and fascinatingly flawed characters brought to life through a collection of exceptional performances, Lymelife is by equal measure darkly comic and oddly touching – a bittersweet jolt of indie movie magic.
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On the DVD:

Network DVD’s release boasts an attractive visual transfer which handles the film’s autumnal colour palette and finer details well. The disc comes with a lone Dolby Digital 2.0 track, which does its job well, with all dialogue and music clear as a bell. There are no subtitles, sadly.

The DVD comes with a small offering of extras, the most substantial of which is a 5-minute-long interview with Emma Roberts. She covers the standard “I loved everyone and loved making this movie” spiel, but offers up more interesting titbits as well, like Derick Martini pushing her and Rory to ad-lib wherever possible.

Also included are the film’s theatrical trailer and a stills gallery.


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Lymelife is available to buy on DVD from 23rd August 2010.
Click here to order the DVD from Amazon.co.uk.