The Truth About Emanuel (Blu-ray Review)

The Truth About Emanuel - www.whysoblu.comEmanuel (Kaya Scodelario), a troubled young woman, becomes preoccupied with her mysterious new neighbor (Jessica Biel), who bears a striking resemblance to her dead mother. When an unexpected discovery results in a shared secret between the two, their relationship intensifies, and Emanuel’s already-fragile world begins to spin out of control. 

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The Truth About Emanuel is the tale of young Emanuel (Kaya Scodelario) who is on the cusp of turning 18. Going into adulthood would seem like a joyous and liberating achievement for a young and bright girl like herself but she is wrecked with survivor’s guilt. Her mother died giving birth to her and she blames herself for her mother’s death. This, among other things, have fortified Emanuel into being a blunt, angry, snarky, and crass individual that generally snaps at anyone and everyone whenever she gets the chance. Her father, played by Alfred Molina, can only do so much. He knows how to navigate through her eccentricities but her stepmother, played by Frances O’Connor, is a bit troubled by her behavior and decides that she’ll try to be supportive, like making grand meals every night and being overall a bit more chipper.

Emanuel goes about her days back and forth on the subway to her job and meets a young man named Claude (Aneurin Barnard) who has been unofficially and officially drafted as her boyfriend, so let it be written, so let it be done! Emanuel works fast, huh? Everything comes to a steeping boil once Linda (Jessica Biel) moves into the house next door with her baby. Emanuel is taken by Linda’s beauty and mysterious aura. In fact, Linda reminds Emanuel about her mother. I’m not really sure how that would be possible considering Emanuel’s mother died giving birth to Emanuel. It’s one of these existential bits of drama, I guess. “I don’t know how but I just know.” Linda befriends Emanuel and they get along quite well until one night when Linda asks Emanuel to come over to babysit Linda’s baby. I would say s**t gets real soon thereafter.

Emanuel is our obvious protagonist but the fact that she’s a mean jerk tearing at her father and stepmother who are trying to help her don’t do her character any favors. I don’t like a-holes and generally don’t root for them. Emanuel is no different, which is why her attitude and way about her didn’t get any sympathy from me. I will say that the rest of the supporting cast, Jessica Biel in particular, were more or less riveting, although O’Connor amping up the nosy “Stepford Wife” attitude was grating after a while. I do think that Emanuel and Linda’s interactions were stellar, and bordered into horror, which I thought the film would turn into once the revelations were made. I am glad (or am I?) that the film didn’t go into horror land.

Towards the end of the film we get explanations and even as I was watching them and being told what was what I still found it hard to understand what it was all about. The Truth About Emanuel is part teen/young adult angst mixed in with some existential drama and thriller elements. They don’t all work but what we do get is a very aesthetically pleasing film. Emanuel is a very complex character that if she were nicer would be one to root for. As it stands Linda is far more fascinating and we really end up rooting for her in the long run. I also can’t help to feel that The Truth About Emanuel is a bit to over thought out for its own good. Some of the elements that don’t need to be explained get bogged down with questions that I don’t care to get the answers for and vice versa. It’s very conflicting. It’s a very well made film but in the end I wish it was called “The Truth About Linda,” because Emanuel is a bit of a bitch.


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Encoding: AVC MPEG-4

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Clarity/Detail: I did not detect any instances of contrast manipulation or sharpness levels being tweaked. This is a very natural looking video presentation that deserves to be labeled reference.

Depth: There’s a good chunk of the film that takes place indoors in Emanuel’s and her neighbor’s house, which are both immaculately lit with awesome low light. They’re both very inviting and I loved how the hardwood floors gave it that rustic glow.

Black Levels: Black levels are deep and never crush.

Color Reproduction: Color levels are spot and I did not detect banding or noise within the palette. Certain scenes of dread and or the more “supernatural” ones out there came through as visually impressive with the color palette used.

Flesh Tones: Flesh tones look natural and flawless especially when Jessica Biel is concerned. No one looks pasty or sickly unless that’s the intention. Emanuel’s complexion does shift here and there depending on the circumstances of her scenes.

Noise/Artifacts: Noise and artifacts are nowhere to be found on this video presentation.

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Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Dolby Digital 2.0

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: The Truth About Emanuel plays around with the sound mix in that there are everyday scenes that take place in a quiet house, a busy subway, before shifting into these weird “alter verse” type of scenes. I thing the sound design handled the shift in those scenes relatively well.

Low Frequency Extension: The LFE level was also kept in check giving the film an overall “oomph” when needed – nothing distracting but more like a wave washing over the film.

Surround Sound Presentation: Given that The Truth About Emanuel is more of an atmospheric thriller, with some otherworldly elements at times, the surround sound channels kick it up a notch during these scenes of creepiness and existential drama.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue levels were exceptional. The center channel had only one job to do and it delivered in spades.

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The extras on this Blu-ray are very limited. There’s an interview with writer-director Francesca Gregorini, some really short deleted scenes and outtakes and various trailers for other Tribeca/Well Go USA titles.

  • Interview with Director Francesca Gregorini (HD, 4:02) – a brief interview with writer-director Francesca Gregorini as she explains what went into the making of the film. The script was three years in the making and the role of Emanuel was originally written for Rooney Mara.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 4:00) – Four minutes of deleted scenes that seemed to have been removed for pacing purposes.
  • Outtakes (HD, 0:46) – Oops!
  • Trailer – (HD, 2:11) – A pretty effective theatrical trailer for the film.

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I really wanted to like The Truth About Emanuel but the confusing script and unlikable Emanuel character kept me from doing so. The strong supporting cast in thankless roles was more entertaining than Emanuel herself. The demo worthy video and sound quality on this Blu-ray, however, bring up the score along with some paltry special features. Honestly, if it weren’t for these secondary factors The Truth About Emanuel would have tanked severely. You gotta love the law of averages!




Order The Truth About Emanuel on Blu-ray!

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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