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Dorothy Mills (2008)

The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 2/10/2009

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/19/2009

As an American who grew up watching American movies, most of my favorite movies are domestic products. But, as I got older and was exposed to a wider range of movies, I garnered an appreciation for foreign films. However, many film-fans in the U.S. have either been convinced or convinced themselves that anything from Hollywood is garbage and that foreign films are far superior. So, if one were to come across a movie made by French filmmakers which was shot in Ireland, then one couldn't help but think that they'd hit the jackpot. However, Dorothy Mills proves that foreign doesn't equal quality.

Dorothy Mills takes place on a small island in Ireland. Teenager Dorothy Mills (Jenn Murray) was hired by a couple to babysit their infant child, and when they returned home, they found that Dorothy had assaulted the child. Psychiatrist Jane Van Dopp (Carice van Houten) arrives from the mainland to examine Dorothy. She's immediately involved in a car wreck and drives her BMW into the water. Despite this mishap, she finds the locals to be very cold and distant. The island is a deeply religious community and Pastor Ross (Gary Lewis) makes most of the major decisions. Colin (David Wilmot), the local constable, is the only one who is civil towards Jane. She settles in and attempts to interview Dorothy, but finds the child to be non-communicative. Then, suddenly Dorothy is spirited and full of life, but she is using a strange voice. Jane soon begins to suspect that Dorothy has developed multiple personalities, and that she can't control them. Jane asks to take Dorothy off of the island for further testing, but the locals are against it. However, when Dorothy's voice changes to someone familiar to Jane, she realizes that she may be in over her head.

Wow. My high school civics teacher would have called this movie a "mell of a hess". I would love to say that Dorothy Mills gets off to a solid start, but that would be a misnomer, as the opening scene fails to give us a good idea of exactly what has happened. Things improve a bit when Jane arrives on the island, and even those who didn't read the back of the DVD box will have a good idea of what is going to happen -- psychiatrist arrives on isolated island to interview potential criminal and discovers something supernatural. Sure, this has been done before, but it could certainly be intriguing. But, from there, Dorothy Mills simply sputters about, introducing one idea after another and never closing the deal on any of them.

Blame here lies squarely with Director Agnes Merlet, who also co-wrote the film. She has made a bold choice in how to portray Dorothy's personalities, and it backfires. At first, we simply hear Dorothy speaking differently, but then Merlet decides to have another actor step into Murray's place, so that we are now hearing and seeing a different person. Keep in mind, the characters in the film are still seeing Dorothy, but we are looking at the person who Dorothy is supposed to be. This gets very awkward, confusing, and non-sensical at times. For example, Jane returns to her room to find "Mary", one of Dorothy's personalities. But, instead of actress Jenn Murray, we see actress Charlene McKenna, and I can see many viewers wondering why Jane is talking to this older girl as if she was Dorothy. The movie is also oddly edited, and there are several shots which feel as if they are thrown in at random. A scene where Dorothy attends a mock birthday party feels very out of sequence and, in retrospect, actually gives away too much, too soon.

The story of Dorothy's odd behavior all leads up to a plot twist, which isn't really a twist as the movie slowly hints at what is happening. In and of itself, the twist is sort of interesting, and the coda could have been interesting. The problem is that when the truth of what is happening to Dorothy is revealed, it causes much of what we've witnessed to make no sense whatsoever. I don't want to give too much away here, but the movie tells us that Dorothy has a particular power. But, besides that, the island must also be littered with ghosts. Once the film is done, we realize that Jane's car accident is simply ridiculous. (In the film's defense, I have to admit that my guess at what was happening was completely wrong. The scene is which Jane's car goes into the water is very, very similar to the accident in Carnival of Souls, even down to how Jane emerges from the water. Based on that, I thought that she had died in the crash and was now a ghost.)

My wife hates movies about possession, and seeing the "A contemporary take on The Exorcist" blurb on the DVD box, she refused to watch this one with me. Smart move on her part. Based on the finished product, I don't know if the movie ever stood a chance, but it does make good use of the island location, and, no offense, Jenn Murray is just weird-looking and that could have been used to make Dorothy creepy. As it stands, Dorothy Mills is a long, drawn out, and confused film.

Dorothy Mills can't find her own voice on DVD courtesy of The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. But, for some reason, the first few scenes are very dark, so much so that the action isn't visible at times. But, this clears up after a while. The colors are good, most notably the green hills of the island. The DVD features a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track provides competent stereo effects which often come into play during exterior scenes, such as when cars pass. Some crowd scenes provide moderate surround sound effects. I didn't note many outstanding subwoofer effects.

The Dorothy Mills DVD contains two extras. "The Making of Dorothy Mills" (26 minutes) was clearly made of a French audience, as it's in French with French subtitles when the actors speak English. The piece contains comments from the cast and filmmakers and a substantial amount of behind-the-scene footage. It examines the cast and characters, including Jenn Murray's audition footage. We get a look at the actual shooting of the film, and the challegnes of shooting on location, and there's also a discussion of the film's story. The other extra is the TRAILER for the film, which is letterboxed at 2.35:1 and is 16 x 9.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long