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Capital Entertainment presents
Sunset Story (2003)

"Irja would go in the middle of the night if they had a demonstration."
- Lucille Alpert

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: April 13, 2005

Stars: Lucille Alpert, Irja Lloyd
Director: Laura Gabbert

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:12m:57s
Release Date: April 12, 2005
UPC: 187323000051
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B A-B+C+ B+

DVD Review

DVD has become the perfect medium for barely-seen films. Most of these appear at numerous film festivals and just never find a distributor. Well, Sunset Story is one of these films that's making its DVD debut, and it is an incredibly moving, funny piece. This documentary took home the Audience Award at the 2003 Los Angeles IFP/West Film Festival, and is just now making its way into the homes of DVD collectors.

Sunset Story takes place at a retirement home and focuses on the lives of two women: Irja Lloyd and Lucille Alpert. Time is devoted almost equally to both women, touching on both their past and present situations. Irja has been an advocate for women's rights most of her life, while Lucille has become an advocate for various issues after meeting Irja at the home.

Irja and Lucille aren't exactly being lazy in their old age either. Instead, they are very involved in various political movements and health-care reform, making a point to go to each and every demonstration, rally, or discussion group that focuses on those matters and other important social issues that are not only important to them, but to society as a whole.

When these two elderly women began discussing sexuality, I initially was taken aback. However, the beauty of this film is that during the course of it, we forget that we're listening to two very old people and just think of them as two adults discussing an adult subject. A startling theory of Lucille's about most people's sexual preferences only enhances this remarkable conversation that takes place in the back of a moving vehicle, and is delivered in the most casual manner possible.

This is a very sad project, at times, with many of the people living at the retirement home being seriously ill. The Alzheimer's patients are particularly touching to watch, but just when you've witnessed one of them wandering around aimlessly, the next moment will touch your heart, as Irja and/or Lucille will take the time out to help them find their way. We also see how the residents deal with the news that one of their fellow community members has passed away.

This sadness is taken to the next level about halfway through Sunset Story, when we learn that one of the major subjects is seriously ill. This revelation changes the way we watch the rest of the film, making each subsequent scene all the more compelling than the next. What we learn at the end is both expected and startlingly relieving at the same time, leaving the viewer with a surprisingly uplifting feeling. Ending on a near perfect note, Sunset Story might have you going through a few tissues by the time the credits have rolled.

The film isn't without its slow spots, including a sequence where the ladies make a sign in Yiddish, but for the most part, the short 72 minutes just fly by. In fact, it's amazing how many of these ladies' stories the filmmakers fit into such a brief time. Still, while Sunset Story takes place in a retirement community with many residents, this is most definitely Irja and Lucille's story through and through, and what a compelling story it is.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: There's nothing spectacular to report from this full frame transfer. Shot on DV, the images are mostly distinct and sharp, with the overall color scheme being very bright and vibrant for the most part. Aside from a few instances of video noise there's nothing glaringly wrong with the transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: A Dolby Digital 2.0 track is the only available audio option, and it's a fairly nice one. Everything comes from the front speakers, but the most important part of this film is the dialogue, which is always crisp and easy to understand.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 8 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
15 Deleted Scenes
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by 1. Producers Laura Gabbert, Caroline Libresco, Eden Wurmfeld2. Director Laura Gabbert, A.C.E. editor William Haugse, cinematographer Shana Hagan
Packaging: clear plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Sunset Hall Background Interviews: Discussions with Sunset Hall activities director, Priscilla Yablon and director of staff, Phil Way.
  2. 2003 LA/IFP Film Festival Q&A: Panel discussion with Sunset Story filmmakers.
  3. Poster Gallery: Collection of marketing stills.
Extras Review: For such an unknown movie, it's great to see a decent amount of extras on board. The best of the bunch are the two audio commentaries. The first features producers Laura Gabbert, Caroline Libresco, and Eden Wurmfeld, and is mostly a discussion about the creation of Sunset Story, from the discovery of the project's subjects to the push for a distributor. The other track is a little more insightful and fun, as director Laura Gabbert, A.C.E. editor William Haugse, and cinematographer Shana Hagan go into detail about the aesthetics involved in shooting the documentary, from interacting with Irja and Lucille, to dealing with the events of the end of the film.

There are also a whopping 15 Deleted Scenes that are definitely worth checking out, along with Sunset Hall Background Interviews, which consists of a pair of talks with some Sunset Hall faculty members, namely, activities director, Priscilla Yablon (who is featured in a segment in the film), and staff director, Phil Way. They mainly focus on their day-to-day work, but also talk about Irja and Lucille.

The clip from the 2003 LA/IFP Film Festival Q&A session is very nice, although it suffers from poor lighting, resulting in an incredibly dark image that makes it difficult to see people at times. It is great to hear the filmmakers discuss their film after a screening of it, and even better to see Irja there and seemingly pretty healthy.

The rest of the extras are the film's Theatrical Trailer, a Poster Gallery, and filmmaker Bios.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

A touching tale of two elderly women who have more life than most of us, Sunset Story is now readily available to be discovered thanks to Capital Entertainment's DVD. Average audio and video presentations are just right for this film, and a nice collection of extras only ads to this wonderful experience.


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