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'Life, Above All' is a coming-of-age story about a young African girl who has to grow up far too fast, but does so without hesitation. She's determined to take care of her family no matter the social costs. It's a heart-warming film that never feels like it's trying to trick or deceive you into crying your eyes out. It feels genuine and its performances feel true. The Blu-ray features exceptional video, very strong audio, and a few extras. 'Life, Above All' comes recommended.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
Sony usually does a masterful job with their Sony Pictures Classics releases, and this is no exception. The visuals here are stunning. Demo-worthy perhaps. A movie that you may play to show off some of the more intricate details that your HD television can produce.
Chanda's dustbowl of a town creates a desert feel. The movie has a yellowish hue but it isn't nearly as bad as some of the other yellow filters we've seen on other movies. Instead the effect seems more caused by the beating African sun rather than a filter of any kind.
Detail here is astounding though. Skin appears perfectly natural, as any imperfections, age and smile lines remain visible throughout. Mid-range photography still features quite a bit of detail. Softness never seems to become a problem. Lines are crisp and defined. Blacks are deep and resolute. Shadows offer perfectly delineated scenes that accentuate fine detail even during evening and night scenes. Colors are bursting with life. The pinks, purples, and greens of the women's dresses pops against a background of harsh earthy sand and dirt.
There are no compression problems to speak of. I found 'Life, Above All' to be one of the best, albeit subtle, video presentations of the year. It doesn't feature a lot of glorious animation or action sequences, but that doesn't mean it's any less demo worthy. This is about as perfect as video presentations come.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Sony has given 'Life, Above All' a DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless mix, which, for a dramatic movie, is unexpectedly lively. Usually, all we get to say in the audio section of reviews for talkative dramas is that dialogue is clear, but ambient sound is lacking. That's not the case here. This mix is alive in every channel. Yes, dialogue is clean and clear, but that's not what makes this audio presentation one to take notice of.
Chanda's busy village is full of all kinds of activity, and as Chanda rides through it the milling of the townspeople can be heard clearly in the rear speakers. LFE can be felt as a thunder storm rolls in. The whoosh of strong winds blows through the sound stage with force. The movie's geography-influenced score is given ample room to breathe. It fills each channel offering and immersive experience of culturally significant music.
It may be a subtle soundtrack full of intricate details, but it's one that will have you completely engaged in the movie that you're watching.
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