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I feel kind of weird reviewing this flick. About women, starring women and aimed at women, Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her is probably not the most appropriate DVD to discuss on a site called DVDBlokes. Nevertheless, even someone as wary as me when it comes to chick flicks could be a little more than just surprised at this one.

The film contains five separate stories which are loosely connected thanks to the characters’ professions and a fair amount of coincidence. An impressive ensemble cast has been assembled to create an emotional film that leaves you with plenty to think about.

The first story is titled This Is Dr.Keener with the title character played quite well by Glen Close. She is resigned to caring for her invalid mother and finds it hard to deal with her own personal problems in the process. Close’s interesting face makes for a solid story in which we don’t get any real resolution at all, just more questions.

Fantasies About Rebecca tells the tale of a bank manager who must deal with an unwanted pregnancy and how it messes with her mind. This segment is particularly interesting thanks to Holly Hunter’s brilliant portrayal of Rebecca. A deliberately grating homeless woman who makes various observations about the bank manager was a little overplayed for my liking, but this story is probably the best of them nonetheless.

The third story, Someone For Rose is a slightly amusing story about a parent who becomes infatuated with a dwarf who has moved in across the road. Her son is equally intrigued by their tiny neighbour, but it is Kathy Baker’s character who decides to act on her impulses.

Nice turban
The next story is titled Goodnight Lily, Goodnight Christine which is by far the most emotional part of the compilation. We witness tarot card reader Christine who sits by the side of her lover as she slowly dies from cancer. Calista Flockhart is thankfully miles away from McBeal territory and really lifts this one up from the pretty simplistic storyline.

Lastly we have Love Waits For Kathy which tells the tale of a police detective (Amy Brenneman) who realises her loneliness when her blind sister Carol enjoys the thrills of dating. Cameron Diaz is convincing as a blind person, though this segment is probably one of the weaker ones of the bunch.

Thankfully Director Rodrigo Garcia has realised the limited potential of each particular section and limited all of them to short story status. The writing is extremely competent and more than enough to sustain our attention but a more-lengthy version of each would have been asking for trouble. The film as a whole relies heavily on the use of facial expressions and long silences. Dialogue is really kept to a minimum and serves only to push the story along, hence the origins of the title. The audience is enticed to really watch the film and decide for themselves the emotions that are being portrayed.

While definitely not everyone’s cup of tea this flick does achieve its obvious goal of taking the viewer on an emotional ride through five different but somehow connected stories. The talented cast helps to portray these feelings and the short story format is definitely suited to these kinds of tales. Several subjects considered taboo by some have been dealt with here, such as abortion, disability and caring for an invalid. This serves two purposes. Firstly, it helps create a sense of true realism to the stories that cannot be faulted. Secondly, it increases the drama and the awkward moments that come about in these situations. Handled tactfully these things can really make a film stand out, which is basically the case with this film.

Right up her Ally
One of the slower-paced films around, and deliberately so, there’s nothing to really make you stand up and pay attention, but there’s enough substance to make you think and realise you haven’t just wasted 100 minutes of your life.

Any self-respecting DVDBloke should check this out for the missus, a special someone, or to be a little surprised like me.

Presented in 1.78:1 and 16:9 enhanced, the film helps you look closer by providing an impressive transfer. Sharpness is maintained throughout apart from the moments of deliberate softness to the images and lighting. There has been some obvious attention paid to details and colours, which both hold up particularly well. There was the odd instant of pixellation for a fraction of a second, but this may have been specific to my disc and is only a minor distraction that occurs only a couple of times. This is a good transfer that does enough to keep the focus on the story and attention to detail.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix does the best job it can with pretty limited material. A dialogue (and silence) driven movie there is nothing for the surrounds to really do, while the sub woofer might as well wander off somewhere else. Basically the fronts are doing the bulk of the work for this one.

Music does sound quite good, but is also cut short by the emphasis on silence and pressing emotion. No dialogue problems at all on the disc, with everything being heard crystal clear throughout. This is a serviceable audio mix.

Madmartigan was close behind
The only extra present on the disc is a theatrical trailer which, thankfully, hasn’t been used as the only extra in a special features section. Instead you can access it from the main menu. Sadly there’s nothing else to report.

This one is a bit of a surprise. Admittedly it’s aimed for women mainly, but the stories are involving enough to gain a little bit of interest from everyone. The characters are strong and are helped by a more than competent star-filled cast who really know their roles and can deliver the emotions that are demanded. A run-of-the-mill disc doesn’t lift this one up any higher, but the stories themselves would be the reason to pick up the DVD. Take a look.