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Shell is a 17-year-old woman who lives and works at a petrol station in the desolate Scottish Highlands. Apart from the occasional customers who call by for fuel, and a few regulars who acknowledge and catch up with her, Shell's only company is her reserved and softly spoken father Pete (Joseph Mawle), to whom she is devoted. A young girl trying to find her place in the world, she is on the cusp of womanhood, struggling to re-imagine her role within her own family and life in general. Pete, meanwhile, is damaged goods. He still keenly feels the absence of his wife, who ran away when Shell was four, while his connection with his daughter is both difficult and disturbing. An assured debut feature starring Joseph Mawle and newcomer Chloe Pirrie, Shell marks the arrival of Scottish writer-director Scott Graham as a distinctive new voice in British cinema.
For more about Shell and the Shell Blu-ray release, see Shell Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on July 22, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Chloe Pirrie, Joseph Mawle, Kate Dickie, Paul Thomas Hickey, Michael Smiley, Morven Christie
Director: Scott Graham
» See full cast & crew
Shell Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, July 22, 2013
Winner of Best Film Award at the at the Turin Film Festival, Scottish director Scott Graham's "Shell" (2012) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Verve Pictures. The supplemental features on the disc include an original trailer for the film, standard making of featurette, and a short film. The release also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring a statement from Scott Graham and Ruby Beesley's essay "The Impact of Isolation". In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
17-year-old Shell (Chloe Pirrie) frequently feels lonely. She needs a friend, perhaps even someone to fall in love with, but the only other person she can talk to is her father, Pete (Joseph Mawle, The Cold Light of Day, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), who spends his time fixing old cars and thinking about the wife he once had. Shell and Pete live and work at a small gas station somewhere in the desolate Scottish Highlands.
Occasionally truckers will stop at the gas station and exchange a few words with Shell, but none of them ever seem interested in hearing what she has to say. They are always in a hurry to go home. Hugh (Michael Smiley, Kill List), a middle-aged man from the closest town, will sporadically drive to the gas station to see Shell, but he also isn't comfortable talking to her when Pete is around.
Late at night, Shell cooks for Hugh and they have dinner together. He always tells her that the food is great and then quickly heads to his room. While cleaning the dirty dishes, Shell would listen to the radio – her only connection to the world on the other side of the cold mountains.
Scott Graham's directorial debut Shell is a sad but indescribably beautiful film. At times it feels like a contemporary Scottish remake of Wim Wenders' Paris, Texas, though Shell and her father never leave the gas station. The same sense of tranquility that permeates large portions of Wenders' film is also present in Graham's film.
The focus of attention is strictly on the quiet transformation Shell and her father undergo while trying to have a normal life. This seems almost impossible where they are. Occasionally Shell and Pete try to talk, but there is little to talk about because nothing ever happens. The only excitement in their lives comes when someone hits a dear and comes looking for help or an overworked trucker stops to buy gas. Then for a few minutes they feel alive. The rest of the time, however, the two are walking shadows.
In addition to Shell and Pete, the camera also spends a great deal of time observing the Highlands. There are sequences in the film where it almost looks like nature also needs some love, some excitement. It is difficult to explain exactly how it is done, but the film creates the impression that nature is a real character wanting to be loved by those who occasionally recognize that it exists.
Pirrie is marvelous as Shell. Especially during the second half of the film, where she tries hard to convince herself that she belongs next to her father, she is simply terrific. However, the film could not have been as powerful as it is without Mawle. He utters only a few lines but his facial expressions are quite extraordinary. Playing the heartbroken Pete has to be his best acting job to date. There are also memorable cameos by Kate Dickie, Iain De Caestecker, and Tam Dean Burn.
The film was lensed by cinematographer Yoliswa Gärtig (Kirsi Liimatainen's Sonja, Robert Thalheim's Netto).
King Creosote's (Kenny Anderson's stage name) terrific Favorite Girl In The World is heard at the end of the film.
Shell Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.25:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Scott Graham's Shell arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Verve Pictures.
Detail and especially clarity are very impressive. The various panoramic shots throughout the film look quite extraordinary - sometimes even extremely small objects are surprisingly easy to see (see screencaptures # 3 and 1). Colors are very rich and stable, never looking manipulated. However, because natural light is captures in a variety of different ways, some minor fluctuations are present. There are absolutely no traces of problematic digital corrections. Compression is excellent. When blown through a digital projector, the image also remains exceptionally tight around the edges of the frame. To sum it all up, this is a beautiful presentation that should please even the most demanding Blu-ray aficionados. (This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 o SA in order to access its content).
Shell Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two standard audio tracks on this Blu-ray release: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and English LPCM 2.0. Also included is Descriptive Audio tracks (LPCM 2.0). For the record, Verve Picures have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame.
The film does not have an elaborate soundtrack. Excluding the occasional exchanges between Shell and Pete and the people that visit their gas station, there are only random nature sounds and noises. A few times one could also hear passing cars and trucks. Needless to say, dynamic intensity is limited. However, clarity and depth are simply outstanding. For the record, there are no pops, cracks, audio dropouts, or distortions to report in this review.
Shell Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Shell Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Scott Graham directorial debut, Shell, is a sad but indescribably beautiful film shot on location in the desolate Scottish Highlands. It is also one of the very best independent films I've seen this year. Verve Pictures' technical presentation of Shell is outstanding. If you can play Region-B releases, I urge you to consider adding this film to your library. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Shell Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Shell Blu-ray - March 13, 2013
Independent British distributors Verve Pictures will release on Blu-ray Scottish writer-director Scott Graham's first feature film Shell (2012), starring Chloe Pirrie, Tam Dean Burn, Morven Christie, and Iain De Caestecker. The release will be available for purchase ...
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