Monterey Media // 2004 // 97 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Roy Hrab (Retired) // May 19th, 2008
Two sisters: One night changed them forever.
Pearl Diver is a quiet film with lofty aspirations of delivering lessons on forgiveness, reconciliation, and truth. And, I'm sure the target audience for this movie will receive these lessons with open arms. However, as a piece filmmaking, Pearl Diver is lacking in both style and substance. Let us begin.
In a quiet Mennonite community, Marian (Amy Jean Johnson) and Hannah (Joey Honsa) are at home when two thieves break into their home and kill their mother in a botched robbery. Twenty years later, Hannah is in the big city, pursuing a writing career, while Marian remains on the family farm, married to a man named John (Brian Boland), and raising a young daughter, Rebecca (Maddie Abshire). A freak farming accident severely injures Rebecca, leading Hannah to return home with the past in tow.
Pearl Diver reveals itself at a leisurely pace. There are many shots of fields and of faces. The camera is stationary most of the time. The characters speak in a very measured and spare manner. The purpose, I suppose, of all of this is to add resonance and depth to the story's actions and revelations. It achieves this to some extent; however, the main result of the slow pace is to highlight the fact that the movie is about thirty minutes longer than it should be. Pearl Diver makes a decent short story, but it is not sustainable over a feature length film.
The film's finale highlights the weakness. Because I don't want to give away the twist ending, I will try to keep this brief. The conclusion reveals information indicating that the events surrounding the murder of the sisters' mother are not what they initially appeared to be. It leads to a reconciliation between the sisters and explains behaviour exhibited earlier in the film. But, then the film ends. However, ending the film at this point makes no sense because the revelation threatens to undermine all the prior action. I will say only this: How could the information be hidden for so long? It should have been made known at the murder trial twenty years earlier. I felt cheated by the twist.
Another problem is that the dialogue is wooden at times, as though writer (and director) Sidney King was trying a little too hard to give the proceedings a theatrical style.
The technical aspects of this release are acceptable. This is a low budget, independent film with no special effects and not much in the way of a soundtrack. However, the video and audio do the film justice.
There is a thin set of extras, consisting of a trailer, deleted and extended scenes, and some short comments by the director and writer, Sidney King. For the most part, all the extra footage is forgettable, except for a scene where John expresses doubts about litigation with the insurance company. It's unclear why the scene was cut. The brief comments by King don't provide much insight into the film, although he acknowledges that marketing the film was extremely challenging.
Despite the flaws, I believe that fans of Christian and spiritual themed shows like Touched By An Angel, Seventh Heaven, and Doc will enjoy this film. Further, unlike most Hollywood fare, Pearl Diver is anchored by two strong female characters with strong performances by Johnson and Honsa without being a "chick-flick."
Pearl Diver will appeal to the target audience that I have indicated above. In that sense, the film is a success. However, if you don't fit into that demographic, pass on this one.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Monterey Media
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Deleted Scenes
* Thoughts from the director
* Official Site