Julie Walking Home, the latest film from Agnieszka Holland (Angry Harvest, The Third Miracle), opens theatrically tomorrow. As I'm thinking what to say about her latest grapple with the rational and the mystical, I hear that e-mail ding and find a video release announcement from Alliance Atlantis. Julie Walking Home arrives on DVD August 5, six weeks from now. This is an interesting film. Miranda Otto (Eowyn in The Two Towers) and William Fichtner (Black Hawk Down) play a couple whose marriage is collapsing after his adultery, and whose entire lives begin to collapse when their young son gets cancer.
Medical science isn't helping, so the mother, much to the dismay of her scientist husband, takes the child to Poland, where a faith healer (Lothaire Bluteau) is supposed to be working miracles.
Holland has a wide streak of Slavic Catholic mysticism in her makeup. She's a contemporary and friend of the late Krzysztof Kieslowski, and shares a lot of thematic interests with him. So this sort of thing is meat for her, as was the "What's a saint?" question in The Third Miracle.
Julie Walking Home is shot inti-mately, with a lot of jittery hand-held camera work that gets right up the actors' noses and brings out the melodrama. The performances are strong, particularly Otto's. She's an Australian actor not much seen in North America.
However, when a film is not striking visually, do you want to shell out first-run theatre prices when it will be rentable in six weeks?
I suspect this sort of quandary to be posed more frequently by small independent films. Julie is a Canadian-Polish-German co-production that premiered last fall at Venice, and since it's not a glamour independent or foreign film like, say, Amélie, it didn't have the kind of buzz that got the latter into theatres in a hurry.
Without that festival buzz, it winds up with a perfunctory "we're contractually obliged to open it" theatrical run just before the video comes out, so the distributors can advertise it as a theatrical rather than straight-to-video release. At the same time, it's hard to blame the distributor. Opening a movie, even small, costs money that may not be recouped.
You can view Julie Walking Home as the ultimate alternative to The Hulk this weekend. But while I think it's worth seeing, it's not the sort of film that will makes filmgoers think,"I've just got to see this on the big screen. Video will ruin it."