DVD Rating: ****

Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Read Angus Wolfe Murray's film review of Helen

Christine Molly and Joe Lawlor's filmmaking practises – shooting everything in long, fluid single takes without cutaways – leave little room for those staples of DVD pacakages, deleted scenes. Here, however, the Irish directing duo can go one better, offering a polished product instead of detritus from the cutting-room floor. For while the ten-minute Joy is an internally coherent short that could be viewed in isolation from Helen, it also forms a companion piece to the main feature, with the same essential cast, characters and circumstances, the same park setting, the same shimmering score and the same sweeping cinematography - and it is every bit as good.

In it, a police officer (Sonia Saville) launches a public appeal direct to camera for information on student Joy, while in the background a dramatisation of Joy's last movements is played out, with Helen (Annie Townsend) in the rôle of the missing student – except that as the reconstruction continues, the policewoman's narration becomes a more abstract and poetic discourse on childhood's end and adulthood's beginning.

In addition to this, we get a comprehensive 25-minute interview with Molly and Lawlor about their decades-long collaborations in youth workshops, theatre, and finally film, and their distinctive approach to filmmaking, developed over a series of award-winning Cinemascope shorts. Molloy suggests that usually they give a part in their films to anyone who expresses an interest, but for Helen (their first feature) they needed to be a bit more focused in casting the lead, and managed to find Townsend only at the last minute. They were drawn to her cool streak and lack of posing. "We never explored if she had a range," comments Laylor, "it wasn't required and we didn't want it." They had a mere 14 days in which to complete their shoot without a lighting budget, and spent a total of two hours colour-grading their footage in post-production. They modestly ascribe the vivid lustre of the final product to the power of film, but really it is down to their extraordinary talent.

Reviewed on: 08 Sep 2009
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Helen packshot
A missing girl's police reconstruction prompts her proxy to fill in the psychological gaps in herself.

Product Code: NW006

Region: 2

Ratio: 16:9

Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0, Dolby Digital 5.1

Extras: Interview with the filmmakers, short film Joy, theatrical trailer

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