Waking the Dead
, like director-writer Keith Gordon's earlier films (The Chocolate War
, A Midnight Clear
, Mother Night
), is based on a well-regarded modern novel (by Scott Spencer) and has a great many quiet virtues: a genuine engagement with near-contemporary America, complicated characters well-played by a cast of perfectly selected not-quite-star performers and a questioning approach that sits ill with the too-easy answers of most contemporary films. The complex story opens in 1974 with the death in a car bomb explosion of Sarah Williams (Jennifer Connelly), a radical working with a faction of left-wing Catholics to rescue dissidents from Chile. This has a devastating effect on her straighter boyfriend, Fielding Pierce (Billy Crudup), who is working within the system with an eye on rising in the Democratic Party through the patronage of a senior figure (Hal Holbrook), the man who is eventually to become the President.
We flash back to 1972 and Fielding's intense relationship with Sarah, marked by romantic and political differences that feel far more real than the contrived oppositional arguments in most political movies. Then skip 10 years forward to find a sleeker, hollow-faced Fielding running for Congress, tormented not only by memories of Sarah but her actual or phantasmal appearances. Another film might play this as a paranoid mystery thriller, but this goes for psychology, and Crudup delivers an intense portrait of a man cracking up by the loss of his ideals as much as his life's love--climaxing in a terrific restaurant outburst to his needy, congratulatory family. Unreleased theatrically in the UK, this outstanding film has award-quality performances from Crudup and Connelly, both doing their best screen work to date.
On the DVD: The picture is presented in 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen, with Dolby Digital sound. You get the usual trailer, filmographies and puff piece featurette, but also three superb extras: a commentary from Gordon that passionately and intelligently addresses the thematic material and production circumstances of the film; a package of deleted scenes that goes well beyond the usual irrelevant snippets--everything here offers additional insights into the plot and character; tracks from the composers Tomandandy which play over the menus--a rare feature that's liable to become more common. --Kim Newman
un giovane candidato al congresso americano, all'improvviso, ha continue visioni della moglie morta nove anni prima. non riesce a capire se si tratta di allucinazioni o se, in qualche modo, la moglie sia ancora viva. ne segue una grossa crisi che lo portera' a riconsiderare la sua vita.