Dot The I Review
A joint UK/Spanish co-production, Dot The I initially appears to confirm the impression of a bland euro-pudding product destined for straight-to-video release, and despite the presence of rising star Gael García Bernal (Bad Education, Y Tu Mamá También) that is exactly the fate the film appears to have suffered. The impression given by the film’s opening however is somewhat misleading and it eventually pulls through with some delightfully improbable plot developments that could go a long way towards lifting this above most of the fare that reaches the bargain bin.
Things do get off to a bad start though. It takes no more than 5 minutes of bad dialogue, poor acting and blatant contrivance to set the film’s premise up. Carmen has been living in the UK for 6 months, hiding from an abusive, stalker Spanish boyfriend. In and out of waitressing and hotel cleaning jobs because of her fiery temper, it’s her temperament that her mild-mannered English boyfriend Barnaby finds so attractive in her (dialogue along the lines of “Carmen, will you marry me? You’ll make me the happiest man alive”, “But we’ve only known each other 5 months”, summarise all this in a cringingly obvious manner). Further eye-rolling contrivance comes into play when celebrating her hen-night at an exclusive French restaurant, Carmen’s table is double-booked with three scruffy youths – Kit, Tom and Theo. When the waiter informs Carmen that it is an old French tradition for the bride-to-be to kiss a handsome young man, there is not much doubt about who she is going to choose – cue long, lingering kiss with Gael García Bernal’s handsome Kit at the end of her table. With her wedding to Barnaby only a week away, Carmen’s certainty about her wedding is suddenly thrown into doubt.
But things are not as they appear on the surface and once you get over the awkward exposition, improbable setup and poor acting, there is actually a lot more to the film than at first seems, as a series of jump-cuts and mysterious digital hand-held spy-camera footage following events seems to suggest. This however isn’t much to go on for the first 40 minutes, and the MTV-style cutting and wobbling can irritate as much as the cross-cultural clichés and romantic stereotypes the film abounds in – passionate Spanish females, wet English boyfriends and romantic Latin lovers. The film’s fatalistic Hispanic love-triangle premise suggests Lorca’s ‘Blood Wedding’, García Márquez’s ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold’ (directly referenced in the film) and of course as the principal character’s name indicates Mérimée/Bizet’s, ‘Carmen’ (a Madrileña, Carmen nevertheless dances Flamenco in a club here – unsurprisingly, not particularly well). The acting early on is as far from convincing as the plot and characters – Natalia Verbeke’s English phrasing is awkward, James D’Arcy is completely wet and irritating as the unreasonably reasonable boyfriend who constantly tries to be nice to everyone. García Bernal however, strangely cast as an English youth, although one who was born in Brazil, is surprisingly good, handling his lines well with an unforced accent. The subsequent developments go some way towards overcoming these apparent weaknesses - which are deliberately misleading - but you don’t have much to go on until you get to the second half of the film. It’s worth the wait though as everything is turned delightfully on its head and the film unravels a series of thrilling twists and unpredictable developments.
Dot The I doesn’t appear to have received a theatrical release in the UK, which is surprising as the film is much better than many UK films that do hit the cinemas. The Optimum Region 2 DVD release is therefore a premiere release for the film in the UK.
The picture quality, presented anamorphically at 1.78:1 on this release, is excellent. It’s not razor sharp and the colours are slightly muted, but that seems part of the film’s style, or if not, it certainly suits the nature of the film perfectly. There is a very slight blurring in faces in wider shots and in movement and there is the odd flicker of compression artefacts. If the film had a transfer at a higher bit-rate on a dual-layer disc, it would be close to perfect. As it is, on a single-layer barebones disc, this still looks very good indeed.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and it is strong and clear throughout. There is not a great deal of use made of the surrounds - the dialogue being mainly centre front based - but the film boast a fine soundtrack pumped full of good songs from UK acts like Doves, Idlewild, Aqualung, D.J Shadow and Bentley Rhythm Ace, which echo well within the sound design.
English hard of hearing subtitles, including music cues, are also included. Nice.
No extra features at all, barring the forced trailers every time the DVD is loaded. This is not good practice.
If you can get over the predicable romantic plot contrivances, dodgy characterisation and stagy acting at the start of Dot The I, it’s worth the wait to see those expectations pleasingly overturned in the deliriously bonkers second-half. It’s rather a pity that this film, a debut from writer/director Matthew Parkhill, hasn’t been more widely seen in the UK thus far, but the growing box-office attraction of Gael García Bernal may give this one a deserved new lease of life on DVD. Optimum’s release is completely barebones and thus overpriced for a straight-to-video release, but anyone picking this up at a budget price will be pleasantly surprised by an enjoyable and fun film (if you don’t take it too seriously) with a more than adequate DVD transfer.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 09:08:33