Starring: Matthew Broderick, Colin Firth, Helen Hunt, Bette Midler
Directed By: Helen Hunt
Running Time: 100 minutes
Ratings: Canada – 14A, USA – R, UK – 15
This touching, warmly amusing story directed by Helen Hunt follows schoolteacher April Epner (Hunt) on her very unlikely path toward personal fulfillment. Following her seperation from her husband (Matthew Broderick) and the death of her adoptive mother, April is contacted by her apparent birth mother (Bette Midler), a colourful local talk show host who’s not exactly the ideal mom. As she tries to become the mother to April that she never was able to be, April finds solace in the arms of the father of one of her students (Clin Firth). With every aspect of her world turned upside down, April must learn how to cope with an age-old truth — life can change in a heartbeat.
Let me start off by saying that Helen Hunt’s directorial debut isn’t a complete waste… just mostly a waste.
The story itself showed a lot of potential for me early on as the topic of adoption is something quite personal to me. Being adopted myself and having been raised in a family with a sibling that is the biological offspring of my adoptive parents, I instantly connected. Some of the feelings that April Epner expresses early on are some that I have wrestled with in my past. It is a profound topic that is far too often sidestepped both in entertainment and real life in order to avoid the potential for offending family members. It is far more touchy a subject than related within the film. Also, April’s reunion with her birth mother, something I have also experienced, is something that would come with much more tension and anxiety than is portrayed within the film. I honestly believe that these are both areas that could have benefitted from having Hunt either strictly on camera or behind the camera and not both. And, subsequently, this would have also added a much stronger emotional core for the audience to connect with. That doesn’t mean that Helen Hunt wasn’t somewhat successful. She has proved herself as a competent enough director with this film as the general ebb and flow of the story is shot with a skill that reflects an honest devotion to the telling of a story. Unfortunately, it seems to me that she may have dropped the ball slightly by taking on too much. The responsibility of both Director and headline performer seem to have inhibited her abilites in both aspects. Although sound, her direction is slightly unfocused. Even worse is that the performance seems consistently distracted. It isn’t until the very end of the film that the viewer feels as though Helen Hunt was able to fully invest in one responsibility as her performance finally produces a moment of focused intention.
Something that I did enjoy was seeing Bette Midler doing what she does best. Her energy is always a welcome addition to films of this nature. Her enthusiastic portrayal of a television personality aggressively seeking to know her long lost daughter is the perfect catalyst for a powerful opposing performance. Bette Midler gives so much in her performance for Helen Hunt to work off of. Sadly, as already mentioned, Helen Hunt doesn’t do much with what’s given her. A better match to Hunt’s performance is Colin Firth. His typical strong silent type is a perfect echo to Helen’s April… which makes most scenes between the two very dull. Matthew Broderick is something of an enigma in this film. His performance is very strange as something of an awkward teenager trapped within an adults body. I would actually go so far as to say that he is the only source of humour in the film through his sheer goofy/awkward disposition… which feels strangely out of place.
The bottom line on this one is that it doesn’t quite fulfill the potential of its subject matter. Helen Hunt would have served better in one role as either Director or actress, not both. The supporting cast does a phenomenal job of keeping the viewer interested. However, without a leading performance to hold them all together, there is only so much merit to be given in that regard.
Crave Factor – 5
Commentary – Wow… right from the get-go Helen Hunt expresses herself so well that it definitely heightens the validation of her as a director. I just wish that she was able to make herself so well expressed with the direction. It’s amazing how much this track elevates her status as director. It makes me look forward to seeing her second director project… so long as she ONLY directs so that her attention is focused. As this commentary proves, her directorial abilities seem to have much more to offer than this film actually does. It appears that she offers a much larger complexity to her work than comes across on screen. This commentary single-handedly saves the CRAVE FACTOR for these extras from a dismal rating.
Featurette (11:44) – A collection of interview material from the different cast members spliced together. I can’t say that these interviews endear any of the members aside from Helen Hunt. Bette Midler and Matthew Broderick in particular seem quite, to be blatant, uninterested in expressing anything important about their experience. Helen Hunt is clearly the most dominant with Colin Firth catching up a few minutes into the featurette.
Interviews (15:01 as ‘play all’) – The cast is interviewed by… someone off screen… about their involvement in the project. The range of questions and responses doesn’t vary much from one actor to the next. Matthew Broderick also seems to have a series of itches on his face during his interview.
Crave Factor – 8
1.78:1 Widescreen / AVC
The video encode of this film is quite good for an independent studio production. The colours are spot on with rich attention given to skin tones, prime colours, and shades of black. There is no sign of any artifacting. However, there is a definable hint of visual damage with minute anomalies appearing randomly. Nothing that an untrained eye would noticed though. Also, there is a quality of softness that takes away from the sharp detail that Blu-ray normally offers. This may have been a deliberate choice in filming though, as some of the main cast is really starting to show their age. Regardless, it is still a far better presentation than one would get from a DVD presentation of the film.
Crave Factor – 7
DTS HD MA 5.1 / Dolby Digital 5.1
Thank you THINKFilm for noticing the merits of using a DTS HD MA track for your releases. However, it wasn’t at all necessary for this particular title. The nature of the presentation doesn’t lend itself to any type of exceptional audio experience as dialogue and subtle environment detailing comprises the entire audio presentation. That being said, the audio sounds just as good on the Dolby Digital track as it does on the DTS HD MA track. All dialogue and environmental detail are clean and clear. Nothing to complain about. Nothing to brag about. It does what it is supposed to do.
Crave Factor – 8
The main menu for this disc is very well suited to the production. With large cream borders along top and bottom, filling most of the screen, along with green and pink highlights, the menu is very soothing to the eyes. In the small section of the screen not covered with the cream borders a collection of clips from the film play while accompanied by a section of the films gentle score.
The playback menu is quite impressive in its simplicity. Upon summoning it, a gentle motion scrolls the beige menu bar in from the left side of the screen. The options appear exactly as in the main menu.
Crave Factor – 9
Overall, Then She Found Me is a film that shows more in the way of potential than in execution. I say this mainly based on the excellent commentary track recorded by director/actress Helen Hunt. But, aside from that there is nothing overly fantastic to witness. The film is above average, the performances are pretty good, the visual quality satisfies, and the audio doesn’t really play much of a factor in the overall impression. The subtext of the film will be somewhat potent for anyone involved with the adoption scenario (as it was with me), but doesn’t quite strike at the heart the way I expected to. I would recommend this title as a rental for anyone who is looking for a very un-involving film night.