A Better Place

A Better Place (1997)
Synapse Films
Cast: Eion Baile, Robert DiPatri
Extras: Commentary Track, Deleted Scenes, Audio Mix Comparison

’A Better Place’ plays like a very dark ’After School Special’. Following the death of his father, Barret (Robert DiPatri) moves to a new town, and soon find that it’s not easy being the new kid. He becomes friends with Ryan (Eion Bailey), a misanthropic young man who everyone else in school avoids. Ryan is an orphan, who lives with his bossy aunt. He hates the world and sees himself as a philosopher, but allows himself to become friends with Barret. Barret also becomes friends with Augustine (Caremn Llywellyn), much to the chagrin of Ryan. Despite his troubled past, Ryan seems to be getting his life together with Barret’s help. Then, tragedy strikes, as an event occurs sending Ryan over the edge, leaving his violent side to take control.

’A Better Place’ is truly a toss-up. On the positive side, you’ve got a film, which takes an unflinching look at disenfranchised youth and the atrocities, which can occur in high-school, but at the same time the low-budget atmosphere and the poor acting really hurt the film.

Despite the fact that the DVD cover art promises a widescreen transfer, ’A Better Place’ is presented full-frame for all intents and purposes. The film is shown in an aspect ratio of 1.5:1, which means that there is a sliver of black showing at the top and bottom of the screen. The film was transferred from the original A/B roll 16mm color negatives, and it looks very good. There is only a small amount of grain present, which is impressive for a 16mm transfer. The image is sharp and clear, and the colors look very nice for a low-budget film such as this. There are some defects from the source print visible, but they don’t detract from the viewing experience. The audio on the DVD is a newly created Dolby Digital 5.1 channel track. It is quite impressive, as it offers clear and audible dialogue and nearly constant surround sound action. Actually, this track is a bit overwhelming at times. Do I need to hear every bird in the neighborhood in a subtle dramatic film?

The DVD includes an audio commentary with Periera and stars Robert DiPatri, Brian Lynch, and Joseph Cassese. This is an entertaining track and the quartet share many detail-filled anecdotes about the production here. A number of deleted scenes with optional commentary and an audio mix comparison, where you can compare the original mono mix with the new Skywalker Remix rounds out the release.